A Cambodian immigration officer arrested more than a week ago near the scene of an alleged weapons-smuggling bust in Thailand close to Cambodia’s border was also carrying four firearms in his own vehicle, Thai-language news outlets have reported.
Leang Piseth, a first lieutenant in the Ministry of Interior’s General Department for Immigration, was taken into custody in Thailand’s Trat province on Saturday, June 3, along with Phakhin Detphong, a Thai air force officer who was discovered to be transporting a cache of automatic rifles, machine guns, grenades and ammunition after his car crashed near the country’s border with Cambodia’s Koh Kong province.
Thai authorities, who later said the weapons were smuggled from Cambodia and destined for rebels in Myanmar, have said Piseth was detained on suspicion of weapons trafficking, though few other details about the case against him have emerged. Officials, however, suggested he had passed through border checkpoints in way that suggested he was a “very important person”.
According to a translation of reports run by the Thai Public Broadcasting Service and the Thai newspaper Manager late last week, a thorough search of the Range Rover driven by Piseth by police at the Ban Tha Luan Police Station in Trat province found four weapons, including three 9mm Glock handguns, which the reports said were registered, and a machine gun, which was not.
The reports mentioned that Piseth’s fingerprints have been recorded to check whether they match any prints on the weapons discovered in Detphong’s vehicle and that Thai investigators have requested assistance from Cambodian authorities.
An officer at the Ban Tha Luan Police Station yesterday confirmed Piseth was being held in “pretrial detention” but hung up before answering further questions.
Cambodia Defence Minister Tea Banh has said his ministry will investigate. On Sunday, he said he did not have further details about Piseth’s status.
Banh also last week sent a complaint to Thailand’s defence attaché office in Phnom Penh demanding Thai-language news outlets that falsely linked him to the case apologise.
According to the state-run National News Bureau of Thailand (NNT), Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Thursday that Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan had rung Banh to discuss the matter.
According to NNT, Chan-o-cha said the acceptance of responsibility by Thai media who carried the stories would be up to the individual outlets.