King of Thailand strips Premchai of insignia over outcome of ‘black panther’ case

Photo via KhaoSod

The King of Thailand has called back Premchai Karnasuta’s royal decorations and insignia due to the final verdict of the famous ‘black panther’ poaching case which resulted in the former construction tycoon’s imprisonment.

In December 2021, the Supreme Court sentenced Premchai – the former president of the construction conglomerate Italian-Thai – to more than three years in jail after finding him guilty of hunting endangered wildlife. The outcome was rare given Thailand’s history of letting the super-rich go unpunished for their crimes.

Premchai and three employees were arrested at Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in February 2018 in possession of a black leopard carcass, skinned carcasses of other protected wildlife, and guns.

Today, news emerged that HM King Maha Vajiralongkorn had recalled the insignia and the 4th level Rattanaporn Medal bestowed upon Premchai in 2005 by HM King Rama IX, “due to the Supreme Court’s Environmental Division’s verdict of imprisonment due to [Premchai] jointly hunting in a national park without permission, jointly acting in a way which was detrimental to the National Forest Reserve, joint possession of firearms and ammunition without permission.”

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The royal announcement was dated April 25, 2023, and co-signed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. The document detailed that Premchai’s name had already been withdrawn from the list of royal insignia.

The court also upheld jail terms for Premchai’s two accomplices. All three were ordered to pay a fine of 2 million baht.

“The summary of the Supreme Court’s ruling is that the three defendants jointly possessed a black panther carcass,” the court said. Premchai would be “jailed for 38 months,” added the court. He is still serving his prison sentence at present.

After Premchai’s arrest in 2018, the high-profile case sparked concerns among the public that the defendant could buy his way out of prison in the same manner that Vorayuth Yoovidhya – the grandson of billionaire Red Bull co-founder – escaped prison after killing a Thai police officer in a hit-and-run incident in Bangkok in 2012.

More than a decade later, the “Red Bull heir” still hasn’t been held accountable for the police officer’s death.

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.

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