After a Thai national was arrested last week for allegedly smuggling guns from Cambodia to Thailand, Cambodia's Defence Ministry has claimed the weapons seized during the arrest are not used in Cambodia, despite the fact that both types of rifle seized are commonly found in the Kingdom.
Chhum Socheat, spokesperson for the ministry, said in a Facebook post on Thursday that those alleging that the weapons originated in Cambodia were distributing “fake news”.
A man, identified by Thai media as Chayut Prasertrit, was arrested near the Cambodian border in Thailand's Trat province and allegedly confessed to having smuggled the weapons from Cambodia to the neighbouring country for delivery to a client there. His vehicle was reported as bearing a Thai military sticker.
Among the weapons appear to be two Chinese-built Type-95 assault rifles, four completed M16s and numerous parts for building the latter.
Socheat said these weapons, reported as M16 and “TEPY” assault rifles by Cambodia’s National Police, did not exist in Cambodia.
“The spokesperson of the Ministry of National Defence would like to clarify to the public and the media that the news about these weapons transported from Cambodia territory is publication of fake (untrue) news without clear sources,” he wrote. “In Cambodia, there is no use of such types of weapons.”
But shooting ranges throughout Cambodia publicly offer civilians the opportunity to shoot M16s, and Type-95 assault rifles are carried by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Bodyguard Unit.
Koh Kong Province Police Chief Somkhit Vean, meanwhile, said the case was still under investigation.
If weapons were indeed smuggled from Cambodia, it would not be the first time. Last year saw a number of arrests of both Thai and Cambodian nationals in relation to cases of weapon smuggling between Cambodia and Thailand. Among those arrested was a first lieutenant at Cambodia's Ministry of Interior who is a relative by marriage of both Defence Minister Tea Banh and the former governor of Koh Kong.