Online outrage over Premchai scandal
BANGKOK (The Nation/ANN) - Social media users demand ‘same standards’ in prosecution of tycoon amid fears he will receive suspended sentence.
Social media users on multiple platforms have furiously criticised construction mogul Premchai Karnasuta, who was arrested for allegedly poaching in a Unesco World Heritage site in Kanchanaburi province.
Photos of Premchai sitting in front of a tent, the fresh pelt of an endangered black Indochinese leopard and the remains of other protected animals have gone viral on social networks, including Facebook and Twitter as well as other websites, triggering angry comments from many people.
Harsh criticism also attacked Premchai, president of Italian-Thai Development (ITD), for allegedly using sophisticated rifles to kill defenceless wild animals.
The combined social media activity has launched “social sanction” campaigns against Premchai, on the grounds that the maximum penalties he faces could be five years in jail and a relatively small fine compared to his personal fortune.
Commentators have even said that Premchai might escape with a suspended sentence given his access to good lawyers and speculation about help from people in power.
Three campaigns have been launched on Change.org, reportedly to demonstrate the power of the people calling for justice in the case.
One of the campaigns, launched by Tulpitch Kaewmung, is titled “Investigations into alleged hunting in national parks have to be transparent and use same standards”. As of the press time, 89,275 people had signed the petition.
The second campaign, initiated by Atagorn Limparungpattanakit, explicitly targets Premchai’s company, calling for a boycott of ITD. He said the case should not be regarded merely as a personal offence because Premchai allegedly ignored laws although he must have been aware of them. “Therefore, ITD should be held responsible for this also.” As of yesterday, the campaign had received 67,396 signatures.
The third, begun by Tak Lim, called for wildlife lovers to join together to make sure that Premchai faced legal action for his alleged “murder” of protected animals for his own pleasure, receiving 970 signatures yesterday.
Facebook users also set up frames for profile photos that featured black leopards to express support for the protection of wild animals, particularly the endangered species of big cats.
The population of the species worldwide is estimated to be between 900 and 2,100, with many people commenting online that the species could ill afford the loss of the animal allegedly killed by Premchai or his associates. As of yesterday, many Thai Facebook users had changed their profile photos.
Another Facebook user, Tossaporn Klunkaew, produced a cover photo for social media users showing a drawing of a black panther against a red background with the messages “Justice for Wildlife. Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary” at the top and “Crime Against Nature” at the bottom.
Other users posted on Facebook poems they had composed mourning the deaths of the animals in Premchai’s case, most of which focused on the leopard because the species is so rarely seen.
A forest ranger at the wildlife sanctuary was quoted as saying that he believed the slain leopard had a mate as he usually saw them together, adding that he had seen it running in the area of the campsite.