Premchai’s business success before the hunting scandal

The image of the grim-faced construction tycoon Premchai Karnasuta sitting on a chair in a jungle camp wearing shorts, rubber sandals and a shooting jumper does not provide even slightest clue of a man who controls a construction empire which, for this year alone, is expected to clinch deals worth about 300 billion baht or 30 percent of the entire infrastructure mega projects.

For the time being, his construction behemoth, the Italian-Thai Development Plc, has been implementing a host of infrastructure mega projects, among them are the 22-billion baht dual rail track train project; the Red, Green, Gold and Orange Lines train projects; the Bang Pa-in- Nakhon Ratchasima motorway project; the Suvarnabhumi’s second phase expansion project; the Laem Chabang’s third phase deep-sea port project; the 35-billion baht Mae Moh power plant project and 350- billion baht water management project; and the Dawai special economic zone project in Myanmar.

But the ITD is eyeing for more projects. It is preparing to compete in the bidding of the 600-billlion baht worth of the high-speed train project linking together three important international airports and the 120 billion baht Thai-Chinese high- speed train project.

ITD’s business achievements are outstanding. There is no doubt about that. And the credit deservedly goes to its CEO and president Premchai.

Unfortunately though, the wildlife hunting scandal has put him in public spotlight albeit in a negative light. He is facing nine charges filed against him by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants Conservation, including illegal hunting, illegal hunting of endangered species, possession of game meat and bringing firearms into game sanctuary without authorization.

Because of his immense wealth and connections in high places, the big question lingering in the minds of quite a few people now is: Will he ever be punished? Mr Premchai was not supposed take over the construction empire from his father, the late Dr Chaiyudh, who handpicked his elder brother, Aekkachai, as the heir to rein in the massive business.

Unfortunately, Aekkachai died in a car accident and Premchai, the youngest of all five children of Dr Chaiyudh, was summoned back from the United States to look after the family’s construction business. He was then 25 years old.

The years 1979-1983 were quite tough for the company due to fierce competition from the other constructers. ITD under Premchai’s leadership realized that it needed a business partner if it wanted to stay competitive and to prosper. A Japanese partner was chosen and ITD managed to turn back the tide and steadily made headway, with the clinching of several major construction deals, among
them the Suvarnabhumi international airport project, the Map Ta Pud gas separation plant to name just a few.

The turning point came when the company was listed in the stock market despite the objection of his father. Eventually, with the passing of his father and brother- in-law, Premchai became the Number One Man of the company.

Premchai graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering from Colorado School of Mines in Colorado in 1977 and a Master’s from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles in 1979.