TRAT: Ten rifles, almost 1,500 rounds of AK-47 ammunition, 47 magazines and other items were seized and a Cambodian man arrested in a boat off the coast of Trat province in the early hours of Friday.
A navy patrol spotted the boat at sea off tambon Hat Lek in Khlong Yai district at 3.40am on Friday. Officers signalled it to stop for a search. A 20-year-old Cambodian man, identified only as Raen, was on board the boat.
The search found two cardboard boxes firmly wrapped with adhesive tape in the boat. On opening the boxes the officers found war weapons and ammunition inside, Capt Naruemit Suksamiti, commander of the Trat navy unit, said during a media briefing on Friday.
Seized were two M16 A1 assault rifles, 8 AK-47 rifles, two magazines for M16 A1 rifles, 45 magazines for AK-47 rifles, 1,440 rounds of AK-47 ammunition in two boxes, 1,000 baht in cash, 3,500 Cambodian riel, a mobile phone, some crystal methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia, he said.
Mr Raen was held for questioning. Cambodian officials from neighbouring Koh Kong province were contacted to join the interrogation with their Thai counterparts.
A 20-year-old Cambodian man, identified only as Raen, is detained for questioning over the smuggling of war weapons into Trat. (Photo: Jakkrit Waewkraihong)
The initial interrogation did not determine the exact origin and destination of the weapons or the motive, said Pol Col Thanakrit Phaphirom, deputy commander of Trat police.
Investigators from Provincial Police Region 2 will launch an in-depth investigation to see whether the weapons were linked to fighting involving unspecified ethnic minority groups in the North, he said.
The seized weapons were estimated to be worth about one million baht and the prices could go up to 100,000 baht a rifle if sold to ethnic minority groups, according to police.
Representatives from the Internal Security Operations Command also attended the media briefing.
The seizure comes just days after a visit by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet, who was effusive in his praise for Thai authorities’ vigilance in locking up Cambodian activists prior to his arrival.
The three people arrested by immigration officers had UN refugee status. They were reportedly planning to stage a protest against the Cambodian premier on Wednesday.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs subsequently defended the arrests, saying the three had broken Thai laws.
Rifles, ammunition and other items seized from the boat. (Photo: Chanthaburi and Trat Border Defence Command Facebook)
The Cambodian suspect sits in the boat in which the weapons were found. (Chanthaburi and Trat Border Defence Command Facebook)