Thai Artists, Activists Lionize Poached Black Panther

Nontarat Phaicharoen

A bicyclist rides by a wall of a veterinary hospital in Lat Phrao Road in Bangkok, where artists spray-painted a mural of a black panther and other animals enjoying a “last supper” together, March 17, 2018. [Nontarat Phaicharoen/BenarNews]


Businessman Premchai Karnasuta (seated) and three of his alleged associates are seen while being placed under arrest at a campsite in Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in Kanchanaburi province, Feb. 4, 2018. [Courtesy of Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary]


A black panther is seen roaming a wildlife sanctuary in Umphang, a district of Thailand’s Tak province, in March 2017. [Courtesy of Thai Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation]


Members of T’Challa, a group of Thai activists, perform a skit outside Bangkok’s Art and Culture Center in which they play out the arrest of wealthy businessman Premchai Karnasuta and other poaching suspects at the Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary, March 18, 2018. [Nontarat Phaicharoen/BenarNews]


A Thai activist participates in a campaign to raise awareness about the case of the poached black panther, at the Art and Culture Center in Bangkok, March 18, 2018. [Nontarat Phaicharoen/BenarNews]


Campaign activists display T-shirts emblazoned with images of black panthers and bearing messages such as “Why kill me?” [Nontarat Phaicharoen/BenarNews]


A man wearing a mask depicting T’Challa, the superhero from the film “Black Panther,” takes part in a campaign at the Art and Culture Center in Bangkok to raise awareness about the killing of a real black panther at a Thai wildlife sanctuary, March 18, 2018. [Nontarat Phaicharoen/BenarNews]


Animal rights activists in panther masks read out a statement condemning the alleged killing of a black panther by a wealthy Thai businessman at a wildlife refuge in western Thailand, during an event at the Art and Culture Center in Bangkok, March 18, 2018. [Nontarat Phaicharoen/BenarNews]


A Thai artist plays a song about wildlife conservation, at the Art and Culture Center in Bangkok, March 18, 2018. [Nontarat Phaicharoen/BenarNews]


A man walks past the Pet and Aquatic veterinary hospital in Bangkok, where artists spray-painted a mural of a black panther and construction tycoon Premchai Karnasuta, March 17, 2018. [Nontarat Phaicharoen/BenarNews]

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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