4 charged with 'Billy' murder
Suspects questioned, granted B800k bail
The Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases yesterday granted bail to a former Kaeng Krachan National Park chief and three other suspects accused of murdering Karen forest activist Porlajee "Billy" Rakchongcharoen.
Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn, the former park chief, turned himself in at the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) in Bangkok yesterday morning to answer the murder charge before he and the three other suspects each placed 800,000 baht as surety for bail.
Bunthaen Butsarakham and Thanaset Chaemthet also work for state agencies, while the final suspect was named as Kritsanaphong Chitthet and is accused of aiding the other three.
In addition to premeditated murder, Mr Chaiwat, Mr Bunthaen and Mr Thanaset are accused of detaining, robbing and threatening the victim with weapons, and concealing his body.
Mr Chaiwat, now head of the Ubon Ratchathani-based Protected Area Regional Office 9, told waiting reporters he wanted to see the DSI's evidence before making a statement.
"Your reports have made me, my family and my organisation villains in the world of social media. I, as a defender of forests, no matter how big government officials are, if I can stand, I will definitely knock down all of them," he said.
DSI deputy chief Pakorn Sucheewakul said the suspects denied all charges and, after interrogating the four men for over three hours, it was deemed necessary to detain them for further questioning.
Officers took Mr Chaiwat and the three other suspects to court yesterday afternoon to gain approval for their further detention.
On Monday, the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases issued arrest warrants for Mr Chaiwat and three others on suspicion of murdering Porlajee.
Porlajee went missing in April 2014 while he was helping his relatives sue Mr Chaiwat for setting fire to their bamboo huts and rice barns during a series of forest evictions in Kaeng Krachan National Park.
Mr Chaiwat and park officials were earlier charged over the man's disappearance but were acquitted due to lack of evidence.
However, after reopening the case in June, the DSI discovered skull fragments in an oil drum in the Kaeng Krachan reservoir that matched with the DNA of Porlajee's mother, and a murder investigation was launched.