3 Charged With Possessing, Trafficking Weapons

Three men arrested and found to be in possession of two Arm­brust anti-tank rocket launchers in Russei Keo district on Tuesday were charged with illegal possession and trafficking of weapons on Thursday, police said.

The suspects, Lim Seng Ousa, 36, a former clerk at Banteay Me­an­chey Provincial Court, Ly Sok Meng, 63, and Mat Les, 49, were charged with the crimes by Interior Ministry police and will be sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Fri­day, said Interior Min­is­try spokesman Khieu Sopheak.

The three have confessed that they planned to sell the powerful, shoulder-fired anti-tank weapons and were seeking $100,000 for each launcher, Khieu Sopheak said.

The three tried to sell the Arm­brusts to undercover police officers, he said, adding that authorities are still investigating the source of the weapons.

“It was weapons trafficking. They tried to sell them to the police,” Khieu Sopheak said.

Though the Armbrust, whose name is the Ger­man word for cross­bow, was once part of the ar­se­nal of military forces once loyal to Fun­cinpec President Prince Nor­odom Ranariddh, Khieu Sopheak said there was no proof that the weapons were linked to the royalist party or their supporters.

RCAF General Chao Phirun, di­rector of the Ministry of Defense’s general department of materiel and technical services, said he did not be­lieve that members of the military were involved in smuggling the weapons.

The Armbrusts held by the government are stored and registered with the defense ministry, but the two launchers retrieved by police may have been imported into the country in the mid-1990s, he said.

Sok Phal, deputy director general of National Police and former head of the Interior Ministry’s intelligence department, said an investigation into the source of the wea­pons is continuing.

Armbrusts are believed to have been among the shipment of weap­ons that royalist forces attempted to bring into the country in May 1997, but were seized by CPP for­ces loyal to then-Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, who branded the 2-ton cache illegal.

Two months later, CPP forces loyal to Hun Sen battled and defeated Funcinpec troops and ousted then-First Prime Minister Prince Ran­ariddh.


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