Mr Wichien said he and the other officials were in good spirits and thankful for the overwhelming support they had received from the public and their supervisors following the incident.
He said he and the other 200-plus park rangers would do their best to protect the wildlife sanctuary, adding that security forces had also sent troops to join forest patrols.
The National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department has ordered all national parks and sanctuaries adjacent to Thungyai Naresaun to step up patrols.
Senior police including Maj Gen Kritsana Sapdej, deputy chief of the Provincial Police 7, and Kanchanaburi police chief Maj Gen Sutthi Phuangpikul will today (Feb 12) visit Thong Pha Phum police for an update on the investigation.
Thong Pha Phum police have so far pressed nine charges including illegal poaching against Premchai, 63, and members of his hunting party. All denied the allegations.
However, one or all of them could face an additional charge of trying to bribe officials.
They were arrested last Sunday (Feb 4) in the sanctuary after they were found in possession of the carcasses of wild animals, including that of a rare black panther.
Police yesterday also issued another summons for Noppadon Prueksawan, a former official of the Department of Natural Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation to report to them by Thursday (Feb 15). Currently serving as an advisor to ITD, Mr Noppadon was implicated as the person who sought permission and facilitated Premchai and his entourage’s visit to the sanctuary.
Lt Gen Thitirat Nongharnpitak, chief of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), said the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Division has taken on part in the investigation, including questioning key players.
He said the lead investigator remains the Thong Pha Phum Police, noting it is the national police chief’s decision as to whether the case will be transferred to the bureau.
Meanwhile, a NIDA poll released yesterday found 51.2% of 1,250 respondents agreed the five-year jail term and a fine up to B50,000 meted out for hunting protected wildlife animals is too light and penalties should be tougher.
However, 68.8% of the sample said they do not believe the authorities will enforce the law on poachers fairly.
Furthermore, first it was one, then five and now eight.
That was the number of bullet holes found in the skin of a black leopard, one of at least three protected wild animals found dead at the camping ground inside the western part of the Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary where Italian-Thai Development (ITD) president Premchai Karnasuta and three other persons were arrested by park rangers on Feb 4.
Two bullets had ripped through the head of the feline and six others into the body, all fired from above, according to a simulation conducted by forensic police at Thong Pha Phum Police Station in Thong Pha Phum district in Kanchanaburi province.
The protected Kalij pheasant had been hit with 12 projectiles, probably shotgun pellets. The number of bullet holes in the barking deer remains unknown.
Forensic and other investigators are trying to establish links between the bullets – and other evidence seized – and the four men apprehended at the camp site. They are the construction tycoon Premchai; ITD employee and driver Yong Dodkhruea; Thanee Thummat, a restaurant owner-guide and Nathee Riamsaen, the group’s cook.
Three long-barrelled guns and ammunition were found at the scene, in addition to the carcasses of at least three endangered animals and cooked feline meat. Officers said the party had apparently dined on leopard-tail soup.
Traces of gunpowder residue and fingerprints are other pieces of evidence being examined by police, while DNA tests may also be conducted, according to Maj Gen Thawatchai Mekpresetsuk, the Central Police Forensic Science Division.
Maj Gen Thawatchai yesterday said the evidence could be sent from Thong Pha Phum to the division in Bangkok as early as today for additional tests.