Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Thursday ordered authorities to investigate a potential connection between a recent gun-smuggling case in Thailand and a similar case last year, seemingly contradicting the Defence Ministry’s earlier claim that the weapons didn’t stem from Cambodia.
During a speech in Kratie, Kheng said there were “still problems” regarding gun smuggling, and that it occurred mostly between Cambodia and Thailand. “The Thais have cracked down on it and arrested some, but they have not yet arrested the mastermind,” he said, adding that a report indicated that the case in mid-April may be related to a 2017 incident.
Last June and July, several members of a smuggler ring were arrested both in Thailand and Cambodia. Among those arrested were a first lieutenant at Cambodia’s Ministry of Interior who is a relative by marriage of both Defence Minister Tea Banh and former Koh Kong Governor Bun Leut.
“Please look into and end this case,” Kheng said. “If we hide this case or don’t dig it up, it still happens.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said he had no update on investigations.
Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat – who had said the recently seized weapons did not come from Cambodia – maintained his position, but could not draw conclusions before the end of the investigations. “We don’t use these kinds of weapons,” he said. “We try to understand. We are happy to fight the source.”
The weapons seized included four M-16 rifles, which are readily available in Cambodia, and two weapons that appear to be Chinese Type-95 rifles.