Trafficked Weapons Not Cambodian, Ministry Says

Weapons reportedly transported from Cambodia across the border into Thailand this week were not from Cambodia’s military stock, a Defense Ministry official claimed on Wednesday, following reports that five Thai men were arrested while moving the arms and ammunition.

Thai police were said to have confiscated two 82 mm grenade launchers, one 81 mm launcher, three 82 mm grenades, three ignition devices and six mobile phones from the suspects at about 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday in Sa Kaeo province, according to The Bangkok Post. Sa Kaeo borders Cambodia’s Banteay Meanchey province.

The suspects were traveling in two passenger vans and a Toyota Vios sedan and were arrested at a gas station in Muang district, where they had stopped for fuel, The Bangkok Post said.

“The men confessed to taking the weapons from Cambodia through tambon Thap Prik in Aranyaprathet [district] for delivery near [the] Thai-Myanmar border,” The Bangkok Post added, citing Thai media reports.

The five were to be charged with possession of non-registrable guns and ammunition and carrying those weapons on public roads, the report said.

Chhum Sucheat, Defense Ministry spokesman, said on Wednesday that the weapons confiscated in Thailand had not originated in Cambodia.

“We have checked arsenals, barracks, divisions and soldiers along the border,” General Sucheat said. “We have inspected all weapons and ammunition because they are all registered and no single weapon has gone missing.”

Asked why the Thai suspects had reportedly confessed that they smuggled the weapons from Cambodia, Gen. Sucheat said: “We don’t know because it is only a confession in Thailand.”

Gen. Sucheat also said a larger cache of weapons confiscated last month in Thailand’s Trat province bordering Koh Kong province were not from Cambodia.

“We have never lost our weapons. So, it is not involved with Cambodia at all,” he said.

On June 3, Thai authorities arrested Lean Pisith, a Cambodian police officer working at the Interior Ministry’s immigration department, and a Thai national as they were driving toward Cambodia.

The pair were arrested after authorities said they were driving suspiciously near the site of a crashed pickup truck driven by flight sergeant Pakhin Detphong, a Thai air force officer. He had been arrested earlier that day after a haul of weapons—including assault rifles, machine guns, bullets and grenades—were found inside the truck.

Mr. Pisith, Mr. Pakhin and another Thai national were charged with illegal weapons possession and were being held in Trat provincial prison awaiting trial on suspicion of weapons smuggling, the Bangkok Post reported on June 18.

Interior Minister Sar Kheng last month announced an investigation into the case, saying the weapons “could have been smuggled” from Cambodia. On Wednesday, ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said he had no information to provide about the case, but said the National Police were investigating the latest incident involving the five Thai suspects. National Police spokesman Kirth Chanthairth could not be reached for comment.

Koh Kong provincial police chief Samkhit Vien said on Wednesday that he had received no new information concerning the alleged weapons smuggling last month.

“We are still investigating it and found no clue of where the weapons came from,” Mr. Samkhit said.

Sovan Bunthoeun, director of the Cham Yeam International Checkpoint in Koh Kong province, said the investigation by Thai authorities was still in progress.

“Thais have only informed me that they are still investigating,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Matt Surrusco)

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