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Overly friendly meeting between poaching suspect and police chief

Overly friendly meeting between poaching suspect and police chief

CONSTRUCTION tycoon Premchai Karnasuta and three other suspects, all of whom have been charged with poaching in Kanchanaburi’s Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary, met with police to hear charges against them at noon yesterday, three days before they were required to appear on Monday.

The “unusually polite” discussion between senior police officers and the tycoon, who is president of Italian-Thai Development Plc, at Thong Pha Phum police station was widely discussed on social media. The investigation was 90-per-cent complete and its results should be submitted to public prosecutors by March 26, when the suspects’ fourth bail extension expires and they are due in court, Royal Thai Police deputy commissioner Pol General Srivara Rangsibrahmanakul said yesterday. Yesterday’s meeting was the first time Premchai had been seen in public since he was arrested at the sanctuary on February 5 and taken to Thong Pha Phum police station the following day.

He talked to Srivara for 10 minutes before entering an interrogation room. A video of their encounter was subsequently posted online with many criticising the senior officer for “overly bowing” to greet Premchai. However, media sources reported that Srivara had only performed a wai in response to Premchai’s own wai. The sources also urged people to ensure that correct information was shared to avoid spreading misunderstandings. A wai in Thai culture expresses hierarchy and seniority, with people who in higher positions rarely performing the gesture first and only in response after receiving one. In that context, Srivara, 58, as a senior police officer, could respond with a wai to Premchai, 63, but it would be culturally inappropriate for him to express too much deference by “overly bowing” even though Premchai is older. After joining officers questioning the four suspects, Srivara said 70 to 80 per cent of the suspects’ accounts matched evidence collected in the case and the accounts of arresting officials. He said investigators would review contradictory aspects in the suspects’ accounts and collect more evidence. The suspects were released later yesterday but Srivara said police might summon them again and require them to provide more information regarding points of contradiction. The suspects face nine charges, including poaching, after being found in the sanctuary in possession of firearms and the remains of protected animals, including a black leopard.

Srivara added that the police had not deliberately delayed their investigation of Premchai and the other suspects as had been speculated. “In a case this big, police must carefully investigate and gather evidence to ensure an airtight report. We will never let the Royal Thai Police’s image be tarnished,” Srivara said. As Premchai left the precinct at 2.16pm in his car, he briefly said: “[The interview] is finished and I am exhausted because police asked many questions.” He added that he had to return home “to take medicine”.

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