Three men arrested for possession of two Armbrust anti-tank rocket launchers on Tuesday were charged with weapon smuggling by Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday, the court’s chief prosecutor Ouk Savouth said.
The suspects, Lim Seng Ousa, 36, Ly Sok Meng, 63, and Mat Les, 49, may have been intending to sell the weapons to Thailand, where an Islamic insurgency is taking place in several southern provinces, he said.
“Maybe they were going to sell them to Thailand,” he said, adding that they could face five years in prison if they are found guilty.
“If they are found to be involved in terrorism, they will get even more serious punishment. This is abnormal because it was not a small gun,” he added.
Deputy National Police Commissioner Sok Phal dismissed the notion that the weapons were on their way to Thailand.
“There is no base,” for such a claim, said Sok Phal, who is the former head of the Interior Ministry’s intelligence department. “What the prosecutor said is wrong,” he added.
Police are still hoping to arrest more people in the case, he said, though he declined to name any suspects.
Viraphand Vaesarapsit, Thailand’s new Ambassador to Cambodia, said he only arrived in the country on Friday morning and was unaware of any cases of weapons being smuggled across the border into Thailand.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said it was too early for him to comment on the case.
“Let the authorities investigate first,” he said.
The three suspects were arrested in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district after they attempted to sell the powerful, shoulder-fired anti-tank weapons to undercover police.