Former director of Protected Area’s Regional Office 6 Noppadol Phrueksawan was the person who sought permission for Italian-Thai Development Plc (ITD) boss Premchai Karnasuta and his three teammates to enter Thung Yai Naresuan wildlife sanctuary, said Kanchana Nittaya, head of the Wildlife Conservation Office, on Friday (Feb 9).
In an exclusive interview with the Thai PBS, Ms Kanchana disclosed for the first time the name of the person who asked her to help facilitate Mr Premchai’s party who wanted to enter the world heritage site for a nature-study trip.
The Wildlife Conservation Office director said she received a call from Mr Noppadol on Jan 31 seeking permission for Mr Premchai’s party of four to enter the West Thung Yai Naresuan for nature study for two nights during Feb 2-4.
She said she promised to contact the wildlife sanctuary chief Mr Wichien Chinnawong and she called the latter, but could not locate him. She then left a message for Wichien’s men at the office.
On Feb 2, Ms Kanchana said she received a call from Mr Wichien’s office who said the sanctuary chief had acknowledged the request to enter the sanctuary. She added that then she phoned Mr Noppadol to directly contact the Thung Yai wildlife sanctuary’s office.
On the same day, Mr Wichien notified in writing the head of Protected Area’s Regional Office 3 in Ratchaburi province which oversees Thung Yai Naresuan wildlife sanctuary of Mr Premchai’s party’s visit.
In the same notification, Mr Wichien wrote that the party would enter the sanctuary through two routes: Thi Nuay-Thi Kong-Maharat and Sanaepong-Koh Sadoeng. The party would arrive in a car with Bangkok license plate No 7ก 2192.
According to Ms Kanchana, Mr Premchai’s party entered the sanctuary on Feb 3 at about 3 pm and one day afterward they were arrested for illegal hunting.
Ms Kanchana admitted that she knew Mr Noppadol since he was senior official at the Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) but never worked with him directly.
She said Mr Noppadol claimed Mr Premchai was a naturalist who loves nature, adding that she did not have any doubt, believing that every individual who ventures into the jungle is believed to be a nature lover.
“Who would know that he (Premchai) would do something like that (illegal hunting). We do not have any problem with the other visitors before,” said Ms Kanchana, adding that the hunting party would be dealt with in accordance with the law.
She insisted that it was not a matter of “krengjai” that the party was allowed into the sanctuary.
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Gen Surasak Kanchanarat, meanwhile, said Mr Noppadol was not a “boss”, but just a retired official who could not force any official to do as he wished.
He added that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon had given a green light for authorities concerned to proceed with the illegal hunting case strictly in accordance with the law.
DNP sources said Mr Noppadol was a former chief of Protected Areas Office 6 (Songkhla province). After retirement, he has been working as environmental adviser for ITD in several projects, including the controversial Dawei deep sea port project in Myanmar.