12 troops, 7 civilians detained over online weapons sales

12 troops, 7 civilians detained over online weapons sales
PHOTO: The Nation/Asia News Network

TWELVE MILITARY officers and seven civilians have been detained over alleged online weapon sales, Army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart said yesterday.

Deputy chief of the Metropolitan Police Pol Maj-General Suthee Netkanthee said that arrest warrants had also been issued for seven people related to the case, with suspects accused of sending parcels of weapons to 22 locations in 15 provinces.

Chalermchai said the investigation into online arms sales, and a separate case involving an Air Force officer who ran his pickup loaded with military weapons off the road in Trat province, had not found any links to the three recent Bangkok bombings.

He said the Armed Forces, like any organisation, included both good and bad people, but wrongdoers would not be protected and would be punished by the law.

Suspects in the online weapon sales included Bangkok-based ordnance officer Sergeant Thanakorn Boonkan, 28, who |collaborated with others to sell weapons via Line and Facebook chat groups.

Thanakorn was taken into military custody after an investigation found CCTV footage showing him as he posted parcels at a Kerry Express shop in Bangkok last week under the name of Corporal Isarapong Phrombutr.

Police had earlier found grenades in an unclaimed parcel bearing Isarapong's name at the same courier shop, leading to the investigation that netted Isarapong, Thanakorn, civilians who received the parcels and others.

Chalermchai also said Flight Sergeant Pakhin Detphong, 40, an Air Force officer attached to the Internal Security Operations Command, had already confessed on Monday in relation to the Trat case.

Pakhin reportedly told authorities he had bought assault rifles, grenades and a large amount of ammunition from sources in Cambodia to sell to ethnic Karen "customers" in Tak province as part of a deal he arranged on his own.

Pakhin was arrested on Saturday along with two suspects, including a Cambodian, on charges of possessing military weapons.

He claimed his truck, carrying items including 29 AK-47 rifles, 4,147 AK-47 bullets and 53 M79 grenades, had evaded inspections as it bore a military-like emblem. He also said he had engaged in weapon sales twice before.

Provincial Police Region 2 deputy chief Pol Maj-General Surapol Wiratyosin said Pakhin had confessed while the other two suspects denied wrongdoing.

Deputy PM General Prawit Wongsuwan said the weapons in Pakhin's pickup probably did not come from the Thai arsenal, which did not include AK-47s.

The prime minister agreed and said Pakhin's truck was a personal vehicle, according to government spokeswoman Colonel Thaksada Sangkhajan.

In a related development, Khon Kaen |resident Saksit Janthapa was taken into custody yesterday on suspicion of having bought weapons from Isarapong.

Authorities said Saksit later confessed to having bought some ammunition and gun oil via Isarapong's Facebook group. He was sent for further questioning to the 11th Military Circle in Bangkok.

Khon Kaen resident Kasemsuk Namsri was apprehended on Saturday for receiving four grenades in a parcel he reportedly said he bought for Bt14,000 (S$569).

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