Army seeks 30 for trade of weapons

Army seeks 30 for trade of weapons

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The military plans raids in several provinces targeting to net about 30 people, both soldiers and civilians, for alleged involvement in a network behind the illegal trade of bombs and war weapons.

The move follows the interception of grenades and bullets in parcels at a private courier company in Bang Khen district on Friday.

Although authorities ruled out any possible connection between the weapon parcels and previous bombing incidents in Bangkok, security has been stepped up at rail service systems and crowded areas in the capital.

On Friday, six M67 grenades, two M26 grenades and 100 HK bullets were found in three parcels handled by Kerry Express during an inspection at its delivery centre in Bang Khen.

The sender was listed as Issarapong Prombutr and the return address only given as Bangkok. The recipient was Mr Mag of No.33/1 Moo 6, Phanat Nikhom district in Chon Buri, who could not be located.

The army confirmed that Mr Issarapong is an army corporal. Cpl Issarapong is now under the military’s custody pending investigation, Bang Khen police said.

However, an army source said Cpl Issarapong is not the real sender of the weapons. Cpl Issarapong’s name was used as the sender to cover the real culprit, who is a military sergeant attached to a unit in Bangkok.

The source said the army has found there are about 30 people, including soldiers and civilians, involved in the network that smuggled weapons from state units, including military ones, and sold them mainly online.

1st Army commander Lt Gen Apirat Kongsompong has instructed military officials to pursue tough disciplinary and legal action against military personnel found to be involved in the case, said the source.

Those military units failing to prevent theft of weapons will be held responsible for the stolen weapons.

Pol Col Amnat Intharasuan, chief of Bang Khen police station, said it was the first time that such weapons had been delivered by post. It’s unlikely the weapons were prepared for use in any new attack because by having them sent by post carries a high risk of being caught by authorities because the recipient’s name and address are normally required, he said.

Police are looking for the real sender of the three parcels as their sender information boxes were left blank when the parcels were received by the company, he said.

Army spokesman Winthai Suvaree said army commander Gen Chalermchai Sitthisat is instructing all concerned military units to fully cooperate with police investigators.

All military units are being ordered to strictly check and verify their weapon stocks, especially ammunition and grenades, said Col Winthai, adding that any staff found guilty in any criminal case would face serious disciplinary action.

The intercepted weapons were destined for the black market and authorities are investigating which group is really responsible for their theft, said defence spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich.

Also yesterday, Flight Sergeant 1st class (FS 1) Phakhin Detsomphong, who is attached to Wing 2 in Lop Buri province, was detained for questioning after he was rescued from a car accident in which a pickup truck he was driving on Sukhumvit Road in Trat’s Muang district skidded off an uneven road surface, said a source.

Some villagers as well as marine rangers stationed at a nearby unit rushed to rescue the driver but were stunned by the sight of a huge number of AK rifles, machine guns and more than 100 bullets found in the truck, said the source. FS 1 Phakhin is being detained at the marine ranger unit.

According to the same source, several attempts to smuggle weapons from Cambodia to Thailand through Trat had previously been intercepted, while in some cases the suspects had successfully escaped.

Although Pol Col Amnat insisted there had been no intelligence information warning about any new plot for attacks in Bangkok, the Metropolitan Police Bureau yesterday called a meeting with its nine divisions, the 1st Army and skytrain and subway operators to discuss security measures, which will be stepped up in busy areas.