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Air Force officer confesses to arms smuggling

An Air Force officer has confessed to arms smuggling after police found a large number of arms and ammunition in a pickup truck which ran off the Sukhumvit highway in Trat province last Saturday.

First Class Flight Sergeant Pakin Dejpong, attached to the Bangkok-based Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), admitted to police interrogators in Trat that the arms cache was meant for delivery to the Karen National Union (KNU), a rebel Burmese minority group, in Myanmar.

He said he received the arms cache from a Cambodian army colonel to deliver to the rebel group at Mae Sot district of Tak.

He said he had successfully delivered arms to the KNU three times during the past six months.

Air Force spokesman Air Vice Marshal Pongsak Semachai, meanwhile, said the Air Force is ready to give cooperation to the police in the probe.

He said the arms cache seized belonged to the officer.

He said the Air Force is awaiting information from the police before taking disciplinary action with him.

The Air Force officer was rescued by marine rangers from a pickup truck which crashed into the ditch on the highway from Klong Yai to Trat.

The pickup truck bears the emblem of the Royal Thai Army.

He was slightly injured.

Marine rangers found a large number of fire arms and ammunition in his truck which included 29 AK assault rifles and more than 4,000 rounds of amminition, M 79 mortars, and rounds of submachine guns.

As the marine rangers were searching the truck, a Cambodian man arrived in a white Landover cruiser bearing Cambodian car plate 2 AD 5629 .

He claimed to be a Cambodian immigration official.

Both the slightly injured Air Force officer and the Cambodian driver identified as Rien were detained for questioning.

Examination of the Army emblem on the side body of the pickup truck driven by the Air Force officer showed it was a duplicated emblem and fake.

The check showed the truck bearing car plate 7625 Khon Kaen belonged to Sirisak Namsiri in Khon Kaen province.

He was later booked for questioning.

Investigation by police showed that the Air Force officer drove the pickup truck bearing fake Army license plate to take delivery of the arms cache from the Cambodian man in Klong Yai to deliver to the Burmese rebel group at the Mae Sot border.

After taking the arms cache, he returned but his pickup truck ran off the road.

He then called the Cambodian man for help. However the Cambodian arrived after the marine rangers were already at the scene to help the officer.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS)

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