A Thai tycoon convicted of poaching wildlife in a national park will be released from prison more than a year early, the corrections department said Tuesday, one of more than 100 prisoners freed for good behaviour.
Construction magnate Premchai Karnasuta was arrested in February 2018 when park officials found guns and animal carcasses including a kalij pheasant, a red muntjac and the pelt of a black leopard at his campsite.
He lost his final appeal in December 2021 against three poaching-related criminal charges and was sentenced to three years and two months, in a long-running case that drew public outrage over the elite’s perceived impunity.
The Thai corrections department on Tuesday agreed to release 113 prisoners — including Premchai — and reduce the sentences of 484 others who had displayed good behaviour while in jail.
In a statement, the department said Premchai will not be required to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet on his ankle because he’s recently had surgery on his right foot related to diabetes.
He will be released on Tuesday and must report weekly to authorities until early December.
His sentence was due to expire in February 2025.
Premchai’s firm, Italian-Thai Development Company, is behind major infrastructure projects such as Bangkok’s sky-train and Suvarnabhumi airport.
He and his sister were on the Forbes Top 50 richest list for Thailand until 2016 with an estimated $630 million fortune at the time, but they have since dropped off the ranking.
World Wide Fund for Nature Thailand said at the time of the conviction that the case was a victory for “wildlife and the rule of law”.
Members of the kingdom’s wealthy elite have a habit of avoiding justice and critics say some receive special treatment in prison.
There was a public outcry when Thai authorities dropped charges against Red Bull heir Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya after he crashed his Ferrari in 2012, killing a police officer.
Thailand’s Attorney General’s Office has since announced fresh charges and an Interpol Red Notice has been issued to arrest Vorayuth.
In September, Thailand’s jailed former premier Thaksin Shinawatra had his prison sentence for graft cut from eight years to one, just days after he returned from a decade and a half in exile.
Thaksin was moved from jail to a police hospital on his first night back in Thailand, with prison medical officers saying he needed close monitoring for various health problems, including heart trouble.