Cambodian police on Saturday arrested three nationals in connection with an alleged weapons smuggling attempt that netted five Thai nationals across the border last week, officials said on Sunday.
“Three were arrested yesterday in Banteay Meanchey province in connection with weapons smuggling,” National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith said on Sunday before declining to answer any more questions.
However, Ben Sam Ath, police chief of Banteay Meanchey’s Malai district, from where the weapons allegedly entered Thailand, said he knew of only one arrest, and that it was made in Battambang province to the south.
He said Chin Lin, a 36-year-old farmer, was arrested in Serei Meanchey commune in Battambang’s Sampov Loun district after Thailand sent Cambodia a report based on the questioning of the arrested Thais.
“We received the answers from the Thai men and we conducted a two-day investigation before making the arrest,” he said.
Mr. Sam Ath said Mr. Lin allegedly obtained the weapons in Battambang City on July 14 or 15 and then “sent” them across the border, but added that he did not know how the suspect got the weapons or how he sent them.
He said Mr. Lin was being held at Banteay Meanchey provincial police headquarters. Banteay Meanchey provincial police chief Ath Khem said he was unaware of any arrests at all. The provincial police chief of Battambang, Sar Thet, declined to comment. Government-aligned Fresh News identified the two other arrested suspects as Yim Savy, 38, and Op Vireak, 48.
Last week, a deputy spokesman for the Thai National Police, Kissana Phatanacharoen, said five Thais recently arrested and charged with weapons possession in Thailand told authorities that they were hired at the Cambodian border to transport the arms and ammunition. At the time, he declined to say if he knew who had hired them. The five men, who were traveling in two passenger vans and a sedan, were arrested at about 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday in Sa Kaeo province, which borders Banteay Meanchey province, while stopped at a gas station in Muang district, according to the Bangkok Post.
The newspaper reported that Thai police confiscated two 82 mm grenade launchers, one 81 mm launcher, three 82 mm grenades, three ignition devices and six mobile phones. Citing other Thai media, it said the five men confessed to taking the weapons from Cambodia and planning to deliver them to Thailand’s border with Burma.
Last week, Defense Ministry spokesman Chhum Sucheat dismissed reports that the weapons had crossed the border from Cambodia. He said the military had taken stock of its weapons inventory and found nothing missing. The Bangkok Post reported on Friday that Thai authorities had arrested Pachara Jaithiang, 26, the suspected buyer of the smuggled weapons, in the country’s northern Mae Hong Son province earlier that day. Mr. Pachara denied charges related to the crime, the newspaper reported.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the police chief of Malai district as Beng Sam Ath.
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