We had to wait 2 years for justice, after being accused of many horrible crimes such as illegal wildlife possession, wildlife trade, illegal encroachment, theft and animal torture. Finally the courts have ruled on the allegations of ex-DNP director-general Damrong Phidet, and completely thrown out the case, ruling we are not guilty. We have had the verdict translated and hereunder publish both the translation and original verdict.
In the name of His Majesty the King
The Court of Appeals Region
7 December 11, 2013
A criminal litigation between Petchaburi public prosecutors, or the plaintiff, and three defendants: the first defendant being Jansaeng Sangnanork, the second defendant the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand and the third defendant Edwin Jacobus Wiek over an offence under the Wildlife Protection Act.
The three defendants appealed the lower court’s ruling. Petchaburi Provincial Court dated June 27, 2013.
The Court of Appeals Region 7 accepted the case on September 23, 2013.
The plaintiff indicted and subsequently altered the indictment to say that the second defendant is a legal entity in the form of a foundation, having the first defendant as president. On February 13, 2012, the three defendants and others were in illegal possession of a total of 99 protected wildlife animals including 33 common gibbons, a Pileated gibbon, an Oriental small-clawed otter, eight Leopard cats, 21 pig-tailed macaque, seven stump- tailed macaques, 17 Long-tailed macaques, a binturong and five Asiatic black bears, which are protected wildlife species under the type of mammals Number 120, 121, 129, 147, 150, 153, 154, 194, 195, as well as one great hornbill, two Oriental pied hornbills and two Brahminy Kites which are protected wildlife species under the type of birds Number 9, 212 and 915. Under the ministerial directives of 2003, the wildlife is protected species as noted in the Wildlife Protection Act 1992. The incident took place at Tambon Tha Mai Ruak, Thayang District, Petchaburi province. Officials seized and kept the protected wildlife as evidence. The
20/03/14 16:02 court is requested to penalise them in accordance with Articles 4, 5, 19, 47 and 58 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1992 and Criminal Code Article 32 and 83, and confiscate the evidence.
The three defendants denied the allegations.
The lower court had ruled that the three defendants violated the first paragraph of Article 19 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1992 as well as Article 47 and Article 83 of the Criminal Code, and sentenced the first and third defendants to one year in prison and levied a fine of 30,000 baht on each of the three defendants. The imprisonment term was suspended for two years for both defendants, who were placed on parole. In light of the first and third defendants carrying out wildlife protection activities, the first and third defendants must explain in person to relevant officials about the activities in accordance with the directives issued by state agencies throughout the suspended term in accordance with Article 56 of the Criminal code. Should the first and third defendants refuse to pay fines, officials can take recourse to Article 29 and 30 of the Criminal Code. Officials must take recourse to Article 29 of the Criminal Code against the second defendant. The 99 wildlife animals must be confiscated.
The three defendants appealed.
The Court of Appeals Region 7’s environmental litigation division checked the indictment, held discussions and have come up with the following findings that the second defendant is a legal entity and a type of foundation with the office situated in Tambon Tha Mai Ruak, Thayang District, Petchburi province, with the objectives of providing medical care for sick and injured wildlife animals and plants, having a quarantine facility for wildlife, providing a safe shelter for captive wild animals, and working towards the rehabilitation of those animals so that they can continue living in nature. The first defendant is the president of the foundation. During the day and at the place indicated in the indictment, police officers and Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) officials presented a search warrant issued by the lower court to search the second defendant’s office and found 272 protected wildlife animals in cages at its office. On the day of the search, of all the wildlife there, the office did not have documents declaring possession of 99 animals comprising 33 common gibbons, a Pileated gibbon, an Oriental small-clawed otter, eight Leopard cats, 21 pig-tailed macaque, seven stump- tailed macaques, 17 long-tailed macaques, a binturong and five Asiatic black bears, a great hornbill, two Oriental pied hornbills and two Brahminy Kites. The police and DNP officials thus seized the 99 animals that the defendants could not present documents for, in declaring their possession of the wildlife.
The three defendants during investigation denied the charges, saying they had notified the director of the management office of the Third Conservation Area’s Petchaburi branch many times of their possession of protected wildlife species that were handed over to them, including the species that were seized as evidence, as stated in document JorJarn 22. The first defendant submitted 153 documents to the investigators, claiming they were evidence that show the defendants had declared the seized protected wildlife in their possession.
This case has a judgment problem as raised by the three defendants in their appeal over whether or not they had committed the offence as ruled by the lower court. Although the fact that the day police officers and DNP officials searched the office of the second defendant and found and seized 99 protected animals that the three defendants failed to present documents for to declare their possession of the wildlife, Police Lieutenant Wanchart Muangsri, an investigator who is a prosecution witness, said that during investigation he recorded the denial in written testimony given by the three defendants. The first defendant submitted written testimony to the witness as shown in document JorJarn 22. The judges have scrutinised document Jorjarn 22 and find it was written testimony recorded by Police Lieutenant Wanchart, including written testimony given by the first defendant who stated that the three defendants had declared their possession of the protected wildlife to the director of the management office of the Third Conservation Area’s Petchaburi branch many times, which included the seized protected wildlife in this case. The first defendant also submitted 153 documents – described in the endnote of the written testimony – which claimed to be documents that declared their possession of the seized protected wildlife.
After looking into the 153 documents (endnote of the document Jorjarn 22 testimony given during investigation), the judges find that these are the documents about declaring possession of the wildlife, which include copies of the documents that declare possession, which the three defendants submitted to the director of the management office of the Third Conservation Area’s Petchaburi branch, and include the copies of a notification of the possession of additional protected wildlife species, copies showing official forms were received that declare the possession of protected wildlife, daily police logs that recorded the acquisition of protected wildlife and memos that show the protected wildlife species were handed over for treatment purposes. The species listed in these documents were found to match the names of the protected wildlife species that were sized as evidence. If it is true that the three defendants have already declared their possession of the seized protected wildlife, they may not have committed the offence as accused. All 153 documents (endnote of testimony document Jorjan 22) are the documents with details that can prove the guilt or innocence of the three defendants. Even though the first defendant failed to provide the documents on the day of the search and submitted them to Police Lieutenant Wanchart more than three months later, the delay in submitting the documents to investigators was not grounds enough for the officials to reject the documents, nor could the officials cite the delay as suspicious.
After the first defendant claimed that she had submitted 153 documents (endnote of testimony document Jorjarn 22) to Police Lieutenant Wanchart during the investigation, it shows that the plaintiff received the documents from the investigators at the beginning. The plaintiff, who accused the three defendants of wrongdoing and claimed to have submitted the 153 documents (endnote of testimony document Jorjarn 22) for cross- examination of prosecution witnesses in the lower court case, has the responsibility to prove the defendants were guilty by proving that all 153 documents (endnote of testimony document Jorjarn 22) were not evidence or documents that declared the foundation’s possession of the seized protected wildlife that the defendants cited in rejecting the charges during the investigation.
The plaintiff could have got proof by submitting for verification the 153 documents (endnote of testimony document Jorjarn 22) to the management office of the Third Conservation Area’s Petchaburi branch, which is directly in charge and which accused the defendants, to verify if the documents could be used as evidence to prove that the defendants had officially declared their possession of the protected wildlife or not. The plaintiff, however, failed to conduct such an examination without any reason given. Police Lieutenant Wanchart’s claim is groundless and carries no weight that the investigators were not experts who could verify that the documents could be used as evidence to show the possession of the protected wildlife. The fact that the defendant claimed to have submitted the 153 documents (endnote of testimony document Jorjarn 22) to the lower court without them being examined, has led to the suspicion by prosecution witnesses whether or not the three defendants declared their possession of the seized protected wildlife correctly in accordance with the 153 documents (endnote of testimony document Jorjarn 22). The evidence produced by the plaintiff does not carry enough weight to substantiate the charges against the three defendants. The three defendants are given the benefit of the doubt in accordance with the second paragraph of Article 227 of the Criminal Code Procedures. It is not necessary to further examine the defence witnesses. The Court of Appeals Region 7’s environmental litigation division disagrees with the lower court’s decision to punish the three defendants, since the appeal by the three defendants carries weight.
The judges hereby rule to overturn the lower court’s verdict and acquit the three defendants.
Mr Singchai Ruechutanant
Mr Chaicharoen Dussadeeporn
Mr Padermchai Petchakoon
The Court of Appeals Region 7, December 11, 2013