Man Nabbed for Thai Weapons Not an Official, Minister Says

Defense Minister Tea Banh said on Monday an arms cache seized in Thailand more than a week ago was not from Cambodia and that a Cambodian man arrested at the scene for his alleged involvement in weapons trafficking was not an official.

General Banh said the Cambodian man, whom he did not identify by name, was arrested because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Defense Minister Tea Banh attends an annual meeting at the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces’ high command headquarters in Phnom Penh in January. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“He is not an official,” Gen. Banh said. “He happened to be there.”

Lean Pisith was detained in Trat province on June 3 as he approached a crashed pickup truck filled with guns, grenades and ammunition, according to The Bangkok Post. He was earlier identified by Sovan Bunthoeun, director of the Cham Yeam International Checkpoint in Koh Kong province, as a police officer working in the Interior Ministry’s immigration department.

Thai investigators said the seized weapons were smuggled from Cambodia and intended to be sold in Burma, The Bangkok Post reported. Mr. Pisith was still in custody as of Sunday.

Gen. Banh said the ministry was still investigating the case, but disputed the report.

“No weapons are smuggled from Cambodia,” he said. “We are still monitoring the situation.”

Gen. Banh said the Defense Ministry had sent a letter to the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh last week, requesting that it ask Thai news outlets to issue corrections stating he was not involved in the alleged weapons trafficking, as some outlets had reported. An embassy representative could not be reached on Monday.

Mr. Bunthoeun and Sok Phal, head of the immigration department, also could not be reached. Department spokesman Keo Vannthan said he was “in a meeting” and hung up.

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