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Two held in killing of wild elephant in Phetchaburi; ivory buyer sought

Police say pair confess to killing beast after being approached by Karen man

Phetchaburi police have asked the provincial court for permission to detain without bail two suspects accused of killing an elephant in Kaeng Krachan National Park while they search for the person who hired them and the intended buyer of the elephant’s ivory and other parts.

After a 9am press conference at police headquarters, suspected wild-elephant poachers Lukkaew Chan-upatham, 28, and Chan Kuanphu, 28, were taken for interrogation at Phetchaburi Police Office at 11am.

The elephant’s carcass was discovered January 3. The duo was arrested on Friday on suspicion of killing a protected animal without permission, having a wild animal’s carcass in their possession, possessing unregistered weapons and carrying the weapons in public without sound reason.

They were allegedly found with an AK47 rifle, a Carbine gun, a shotgun and ammunition.

Police are seeking a Karen man named Somporn Jorkai, 33, who was also believed to be present when the elephant was killed.

The suspects confessed to shooting the 10-year-old elephant but said the beast didn’t die immediately and had fled, Kaeng Krachan superintendent Pol Col Woradech Suankhai said. Finding its carcass the next day, the suspects said they removed its tusks and other parts to sell, the officer said.

Woradech declined to give any more details, saying police were gathering evidence in order to obtain arrest warrants for more suspects.

He said the two suspects admitted selling the ivory for Bt20,000 per kilogram while other parts were sold for Bt2,000 each.

Woradech said the duo denied shooting and burning a smaller elephant found by national park officials at another location. A senior official was arrested in relation to that incident.

Chan said he and Lukkaew were invited by Somporn to join him in shooting an elephant. Chan shot the beast with the AK47 and Somporn used the carbine, while Lukkaew took the shotgun with him but did not use it, he said.

They were hired for Bt90,000, of which he later took Bt15,000, Lukkaew Bt22,000 and Somporn the remainder, Chan said, adding that he delivered the parts to the buyer, who drove a black Honda CRV sedan, in front of Ban Walai School in Prachuap Khiri Khan’s Hua Hin district.

They had hidden in a forest since the shooting, emerging on Friday because they thought police had stopped looking – only to be arrested.

Phetchaburi police chief Pol Maj-General Wirat Watchjarakhajorn said an investigation found that the buyer – an investor based in Ratchaburi – had bought elephant parts from the suspects many times before. Each time, the suspects would arrange for the buyer to pick the parts up in Prachuap Khiri Khan. He said the buyer didn’t sell the parts openly at a restaurant.

National police chief Pol General Priewpan Damapong told the press conference officers were gathering evidence to obtain a warrant to arrest Withoon Reungworaset, a jungle-products trader from Ratchaburi, as he was allegedly the one who drove a car to pick up the elephant parts.

KHANATHIT SRIHIRUNDAJ,

MONTHIEN INTHAKET

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