Cops name 5 over arms cache

Cops name 5 over arms cache

Police to seek warrants based on NCPO complaint

The ruling junta, has accused prominent opponents Jakrapob Penkair (top right) and Maj Gen Paolik with owning what they describe as a 'huge arms cache' found in a Chachoengsao swamp last week. One local resident was arrested Monday. (Photos by Post Today, CSD)
The ruling junta, has accused prominent opponents Jakrapob Penkair (top right) and Maj Gen Paolik with owning what they describe as a 'huge arms cache' found in a Chachoengsao swamp last week. One local resident was arrested Monday. (Photos by Post Today, CSD)

Warrants for the arrest of five people, including former PM's Office minister Jakrapob Penkair and former 3rd Army deputy chief Maj Gen Manas Paolik, for their alleged links with the recent discovery of a huge arms cache in Chachoengsao will be sought tomorrow, according to a police source.

The Crime Suppression Division (CSD) is compiling evidence to seek the warrants, the source said.

This move comes after Col Burin Thongpraphai, a legal official for the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), lodged a police complaint against the five with the CSD on Friday.

In addition to Mr Jakrapob and Maj Gen Manas, the remaining suspects are Watana Sapwichien, Somjet Kongwatana and Chaiwat Polpho, aka Peak Kalamae.

Mr Jakrapob quickly posted on his Facebook page, denying any connection with the the arms cache recently discovered in Chachoengsao.

Mr Jakrapob, who is believed to be hiding in Cambodia, said it is groundless speculation and his way of fighting is to uphold democracy without bearing arms.

The complaint zeroed in on the five with charges of conspiring to possess firearms, ammunition or war-grade explosives as well as illegal assembly.

According to the source, weapons found in a rice field in Bang Nam Prieo district over the past week were linked with those used in the political unrest in 2014.

These suspects were involved in supplying the weapons in 2014, the source noted.

Mr Watana was said to have reported to the Army Air Defence Operation Centre 1 in Pathum Thani on Friday. He has been taken into custody at the 11th Military Circle.

Citing the questioning of Mr Watana and his previous brush with the law, the source said the suspect had links with the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).

Mr Watana was earlier arrested in 2014 for allegedly conspiring to possess firearms and explosives.

His arrest was announced in the joint police and army press briefing on Aug 13, 2014.

According to the briefing at that time, Mr Watana's arrest was made following the apprehension of Mr Somjet, who was accused of supplying weapons, including M79 grenade launchers and RGD 5 grenades, to people during demonstrations by the now-defunct People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

Mr Somjet allegedly told officers at that time he had delivered the weapons to Mr Watana, who would distribute them further. Mr Watana then allegedly confessed to the charges.

Mr Watana allegedly told police during that time he received weapons from Mr Somjet and handed them to Mr Chaiwat, who would carry out attacks in various places.

Mr Watana allegedly also told police that he had dumped some of the weapons in Ayutthaya's Lat Bua Luang district for fear of being arrested.

Tida Tawornseth, leader of the UDD, told the Bangkok Post she had never met Mr Watana.

"I have never heard or seen him before. I just saw him when he turned himself in," said Ms Tida.

"Anyone can call themselves red shirts if they love democracy and righteousness."

She also called on police to work professionally without political influence.

She said that in several cases, police just made arrests first and later ended up having to release the suspects due to lack of evidence.

"Police should not work by clinging onto any political agendas," Ms Tida said.

National police chief Chakthip Chaijinda brushed aside criticism that authorities staged the discovery of weapons as an excuse not to lift the ban on political parties' activities in the near future.

He said his deputy Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, who is taking care of the arms case, would not do such a thing.

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said the NCPO meeting on Monday did not discuss whether the ban would be lifted since the new cabinet members have just started work.

Pol Gen Srivara earlier claimed the investigation had found a link between the weapons haul and a hard-line group of red shirts led by Wuthipong "Ko Tee" Kochathamakun, who reportedly fled to Laos over lese majeste charges.

Asked whether Mr Wuthipong was still alive following reports he had been abducted while abroad, Gen Prawit said he had no information about it.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha echoed Pol Gen Srivara, saying the weapons found in the Chachoengsao paddy field are of the same type as those discovered in Mr Wuthipong's house.

Any groups found to be linked with the cache must be held responsible, he insisted.

Army chief Chalermchai Sitthisad said the weapons were dumped in the field because their owners were afraid of being prosecuted following Gen Prawit's order to clamp down on influential figures and war weapons.

The recovered weapons had serial numbers matching those used in the 2014 political unrest, said Gen Chalermchai, who is also the secretary-general of the NCPO.

Responding to Gen Prawit's comment last week that the lifting of the ban may not happen soon, Gen Chalermchai said the NCPO would discuss the issue but that given the current situation, it would not be suitable for any political activities to take place during this time as this could lead to other problems.

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