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.