Cabinet meeting to press ahead despite weapons find

Cabinet meeting to press ahead despite weapons find

Experts examine and catalogue the collection of explosives and (foreground) smoke grenades found just outside an army camp in Prachuap Khiri Khan province. (Photo by Chaiwat Sadyeam)
Experts examine and catalogue the collection of explosives and (foreground) smoke grenades found just outside an army camp in Prachuap Khiri Khan province. (Photo by Chaiwat Sadyeam)

The army is investigating any military connection to a large quantity of illegal weapons and explosives found in Prachuap Khiri Khan's Huan Hin district on Sunday.

The government has declared a mobile cabinet meeting planned for the area this weekend will go ahead regardless, as the meeting and arms find are unlikely to be linked.

The weapons - which include 41 bars of TNT, four units of C-4 explosives and 31 fire bombs, rifle ammunition and other explosive devices - were discovered by a Cambodian worker in a forest plantation in tambon Nong Kae close to an army compound.

The bags containing the weapons and explosives are labelled with what appears to be the army unit code "Phan 1 Roi 1". 

Gen Udomdej Sitabutr, the deputy defence minister and army chief, said military agencies are investigating to see if the cache is state property. 

However, he said it would be premature to assume based on the bags' appearance that the weapons and explosives belong to the army.

He said bags with military codes and logos are used during emergencies to distribute relief supplies, such as sandbags during floods.

It was possible such bags were discarded and later re-used to transport the weapons, Gen Udomdej said.

"Just because the bags look like they came from an army unit doesn't mean the contents were from the military," he said, adding the army is checking the code printed on the bags.

He conceded, however, that some soldiers may be involved in the illegal weapons trade. They would face tough punishment if any link was found.

He said the weapons and explosives discovery will not affect the mobile cabinet meeting planned for this Friday and Saturday in Hua Hin district, as the munitions were found far away from the meeting venue.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha also insisted the meeting will go ahead at the army's Suanson Pradipat convalescence centre, about 2km from where the munitions were discovered.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said the weapons were old, and he believed they were hidden elsewhere and moved to that spot recently to be dumped.

Some believe they might be weapons left over from past political conflicts.

Authorities are investigating the matter, but he does not consider it a security threat.

Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda said it was likely the person who possessed the supplies was afraid of being caught and decided to dispose of them.

There is no need to put on extra security for the mobile meeting, Gen Anupong said.

"We have to accept the fact that many weapons are left over from past regional conflicts and the illegal arms trade still exists," said Panitan Wattanayagorn, the adviser to the deputy prime minister responsible for security issues.

The weapons found on the side of Phetkasem Road were probably left there by a collector who feared legal reprisals in light of tougher security measures imposed ahead of the cabinet meeting, said National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and army spokesman Winthai Suwaree.

Col Winthai said illegal war weapons are found discarded in various locations occasionally.

He added the army is confident the incident is unrelated to the meeting.

A total of 2,900 security force members have been deployed to maintain security in the district during the meeting, said Pol Lt Gen Wirapong Chuenphakdi, chief of the Provincial Police Region 7.

He said there were no reports of any group planning to protest against the government during this time.

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