The former mogul of Italian-Thai Development, Premchai Karnasuta, was granted an early release from Thong Pha Phum prison located in Kanchanaburi, seven weeks prior to the end of his sentence scheduled for Dec 7. The Department of Corrections announced that a meeting was convened on Monday to evaluate potential sentence commutations for 567 eligible prisoners. Of these, 484 received approval, of which 113, including Premchai, were sanctioned for release on Tuesday.
The erstwhile chief of one of the largest construction companies in Thailand, Italian-Thai Development Plc, Premchai was incarcerated for illegal hunting activities. He was found guilty of shooting protected wildlife species, specifically a rare black panther, a kalij pheasant, and a barking deer, in the eminent Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in 2018.
Premchai, being 69 years old and ailing from diabetes, met the criteria for a premature release, as stated by the Department of Corrections. Diabetes had led to the decay and subsequent surgical removal of tissues around his ankle. To prevent further degradation of his ankle health, it was decided to exempt him from wearing an electronic monitoring (EM) ankle bracelet. However, he is obligated to report regular updates to Department officials during his probation period.
Dressed in a casual attire consisting of a blue short-sleeved shirt paired with grey trousers and aided by a walking stick, Premchai stepped out of the prison to be greeted by his attorneys. He declined any interaction with the media. His lawyer, Witoon Yimprai cited relief among Premchai’s family members following his release. Given his health condition, Premchai will be hospitalized at the renowned Bumrungrad Hospital for comprehensive treatment, as per Mr. Witoon.
The infamous arrest of Premchai and three others took place on Feb 4, 2018, amidst their unlawful hunting expedition within the sanctuary reserves, declared a Unesco World Heritage site, located in Kanchanaburi. They were found with several deceased animals, including a rare black leopard and its pelt. However, Premchai refuted any involvement in the shooting of the leopard.
The prosecutors charged Premchai and co-offenders with violations of several laws pertaining to aversion of protected forest areas, wildlife conservation, environmental protection, possession of firearms without legitimate permission, and professional misconduct. The verdict from the lower court held in Kanchanaburi, March 2019, saw Premchai the hunter Thanee Thummat, and his maid Nathee Riemsaen, convicted. They filed an appeal, resulting in sentence enhancement by the Court of Appeal, December 2019.
During the final appeal in the Supreme Court on Dec 8, 2021, Premchai was given a sentence of two years and 14 months to be served concurrently, while Thanee Thummat, who passed away from cancer in July 2021, received two years and 21 months. Despite one acquittal count, they were convicted for possessing wildlife carcasses, thereby confirming their eight months jail term for this violation. The Supreme Court additionally enforced an order from the Court of Appeal for payment of 2 million baht in reparation for environmental damages stemming from their unauthorized hunting activities.
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