Thai Artists, Activists Lionize Poached Black Panther

Nontarat Phaicharoen

Thai artists took to streets in Bangkok and other towns in recent days to paint murals, perform skits and play musical pieces paying homage to a black panther that was allegedly hunted and killed at a wildlife sanctuary by one of Thailand’s richest men.

Tycoon Premchai Karnasuta, the president of one of Thailand’s biggest construction companies, was arrested last month with three other men on suspicion of poaching one of those big cats and other endangered animals at the Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary. Rangers said they found him there with a skinned carcass and pelt of a black panther. He has denied the allegations.

The animals belonged to species that are protected under Thai law. Authorities have since brought charges against the four men, including illegal hunting and attempted bribery. But Thai activists are raising questions about whether the slain animals will get justice, or if one of Thailand’s rich and powerful people will be immune from punishment over the allegations.

One of the murals, painted on the wall of an animal hospital in Bangkok, is a re-imagining of Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” masterpiece. One group of artists who staged an event at a cultural center in the Thai capital this past weekend called themselves the T’Challa Group, after the superhero from “Black Panther,” the comic strip-inspired American action film.

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