Five Thai men arrested and charged with illegal weapons possession in Thailand this week have told authorities there that they were hired at the border to transport the arms and ammunition from Cambodia, a Royal Thai Police spokesman said on Thursday.
“We arrested a couple of persons involved in the smuggling of firearms and ammunition,” said Kissana Phatanacharoen, deputy spokesman for the Thai National Police.
“They admitted that they were hired by someone at the border in order to transfer these weapons,” he said.
“We are working to find out if someone assisted them,” he added.
He declined to comment when asked if police knew who had hired the five, citing the ongoing investigation.
Thai police were also looking into where the weapons were from, Mr. Phatanacharoen said. On Wednesday, Cambodian Defense Ministry spokesman
Chhum Sucheat said the military had taken an inventory of its weapons and none were missing.
The five men, who were traveling in two passenger vans and a Toyota Vios sedan, were arrested at about 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday in Sa Kaeo province, which borders Cambodia’s Banteay Meanchey province, while stopped at a gas station in Muang district, the Bangkok Post reported on Tuesday.
Two 82 mm grenade launchers, one 81 mm launcher, three 82 mm grenades, three ignition devices and six mobile phones were confiscated by Thai police, the newspaper said.
“The men confessed to taking the weapons from Cambodia through [sub-district] Thap Prik in Aranyaprathet [district] for delivery near [the] Thai-Myanmar border,” the Bangkok Post added, citing Thai media reports.
On Thursday, General Sucheat dismissed reports that the weapons had crossed the border from Cambodia, adding that the government maintained strict control over the movement of arms.
“There is no evidence that the case is linked to Cambodia. No arms come from Cambodia,” Gen. Sucheat said on Thursday.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak, who on Wednesday said the National Police were investigating the case, said on Thursday that the ministry had not received a request for assistance from Thai authorities, but Cambodia was “ready to cooperate…to investigate those people who are involved.”
The suspects “must have people inside Cambodia,” General Sopheak said.
Asked if the weapons were from Cambodia, Gen. Sopheak said only an investigation would make that clear.
(Additional reporting by Van Roeun)
© 2017, Matt Surrusco. All rights reserved.