Witness 'saw carcass burnt' at Kaeng Krachan
PHETCHABURI: Police have issued warrants for the arrest of five national park officials suspected of being involved in elephant poaching in Kaeng Krachan National Park in the province.
Five elephants were recently found shot dead and their carcasses burnt in the park. Police are investigating whether some state officials are involved in the killings of the elephants.
Chief of Provincial Police Region 7 Sophon Phisutwong Friday said the five wanted on arrest warrants approved by the Phetchaburi provincial court are Suriyont Photibandit, assistant chief of the national park and four other national park officials — Surin Maikaew, Mana Nokkaew, Jinda Phuangmalai and Phol Thomya.
The five have been charged with possession of carcasses of protected wild animals without permission, tampering with evidence and conspiring to hide and sell the carcasses of illegally acquired protected animals.
Police have also brought a charge of dereliction of duty against Mr Suriyont, the national park's assistant chief, Pol Maj Gen Sophon said.
The officer said investigators have strong evidence implicating the five officials.
Pol Maj Gen Sophon said investigators had decided to seek the arrest warrants after Phuan Thumsap, 58, a local resident at Moo 8 in tambon Huay Sat Yai in Kaeng Krachan district, provided a witness account confirming that the five officials had burnt a carcass of one of the five dead elephants.
Pol Maj Gen Sophon said Mr Phuan told police he found a dead elephant near a water basin in Moo 3 in tambon Padeng on the night of Dec 31 and alerted park officials next morning.
Mr Phuan said the park officials then inspected the carcass. The elephant, aged about 3, had been shot in the neck. Parts of its body, including its tusks, remained intact at the time of inspection, he said.
Mr Phuan said one of the officials then asked him to remove its tusks, but he refused and left the scene.
He then found the park officials were burning the carcass on a pile of tyres.
Damrong Phidej, the director-general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, said he had ordered the five officials to be transferred pending a police probe.
Mr Damrong said when park officials discover or are alerted about a dead elephant, they are required by department regulations to report it to their superiors to seek approval for any further steps to be taken.
In the case of a dead elephant with tusks, the tusks must be removed and kept as evidence at the department.
Park officials who fail to follow proper procedures, steal or hide tusks or other body parts of an elephant face punishment for violating the law governing the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, Mr Damrong said.