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Premchai Karnasutra, the former chairman of Italian-Thai Development, who was imprisoned for his involvement in a black panther poaching case in 2018, has been granted early release and will serve the remainder of his sentence at home.

The 69-year-old construction magnate was released from Thong Pha Phum District Prison on October 17, ahead of the originally scheduled release date in December. He will be subject to supervision and behaviour monitoring until the completion of his sentence. Due to health concerns and a history of diabetes, he will not be required to wear an electronic monitoring device (EM).

According to a press release from the Department of Corrections, Premchai was one of 484 inmates out of 567 who received a sentence reduction in October 2023. Alongside Premchai, an additional 113 individuals were approved for early release.

Premchai was slated to complete his sentence on December 7. He was released, in part, because of health problems. His ankle previously suffered diabetes-related tissue necrosis. As an electronic monitoring device (EM) could exacerbate the condition, potentially resulting in severe injury, the committee decided he would not need to wear one. After his release, he must instead report regularly and adhere to behavioural supervision conditions until he completes his full sentence.

In 2018, Premchai, along with two others, was accused of unlawfully entering the protected wildlife sanctuary of Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in Cha Lae, Thong Pha Phum District, Kanchanaburi Province, to poach for consumption purposes protected wildlife, including a black panther, muntjac, and Kalij pheasant.

He was convicted under various laws, including the National Reserve Forest Act, Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act, Enhancement and Conservation of National Environmental Quality Act. He was also found guilty of possessing firearms and ammunition without permission, as well as committing offences against officers. He was sentenced to Thong Pha Phum District Prison.

His case reached the Supreme Court, which sentenced Premchai to a total of 3 years and 2months in prison. The court also ordered all defendants to pay 2 million baht in compensation, as per the original court ruling.

The release has triggered public criticism that this is yet another glaring example of how the rich and powerful consistently obtain privileged treatment in Thailand.

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