Tags: Thailand | deport | arms | smugglers

Thailand to Deport NKorea Arms Smugglers

Friday, 12 February 2010 10:27 AM

BANGKOK — Thailand on Friday was set to deport a five-man plane crew that it detained with a 35-tonne cache of sanctions-busting arms from North Korea after charges against them were dropped.

The Belarussian pilot and four Kazakh crew left an immigration centre by van for Suvarhabhumi airport, an AFP photographer saw.

They were detained in December after flying into Bangkok to refuel with a cargo that included missiles and rocket-propelled grenades.

The United States applauded the seizure as an achievement in enforcing North Korean sanctions and is believed to have played a role in tipping off Thai authorities.

Thailand initially charged the men with possessing illegal weapons and ammunition, smuggling weapons and other banned products and failing to report the cache.

But on Thursday, the attorney general's office said it was not in the national interest to pursue the case and that the five would be deported.

"They are scheduled to fly back to Kazakhstan and Belarus respectively on commercial flights," their lawyer, Somsak Saithong, told AFP.

Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva told reporters that officials had already coordinated with the men's home countries to organise their reception.

Belarus and Kazakhstan petitioned Bangkok to allow the men to be released for trial in their own countries.

The crew landed at Thailand's domestic Don Mueang airport in the Ilyushin freight plane on December 11 for refuelling, claiming that they were carrying oil drilling equipment bound for Ukraine.

The United Nations banned all North Korean arms exports in June last year and the Bangkok case is believed to be the first breach of the resolution with an airborne cargo.

The United States was instrumental in passing the resolution following Pyongyang's latest missile and nuclear tests. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was "very pleased" with the weapons seizure.

Following the Thai decision to drop the case, US embassy spokeswoman Cynthia Brown said Friday: "This was a matter for the Thai attorney-general's office to decide. We respect the independence of Thailand's system.

"We do want to applaud Thailand for their implementation of the resolution and their responsible decision to report this information."

She added that the UN committee set up to enforce the resolution was continuing to investigate the incident.

Abhisit said the government was awaiting the UN's recommendation on what to do with the haul, which is being held at an air force base north of Bangkok.

A flight plan obtained by investigators showed the plane was bound for Iran, which has denied it was the destination. US intelligence chief Dennis Blair has said it was headed to the Middle East.

The five men were held at the same jail as Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, dubbed the "Merchant of Death" by some media.

Bout was arrested in Bangkok in March 2008 while allegedly agreeing to supply missiles to Colombian rebels. The Thai government is perceived to have worked closely with Washington on that case and is appealing a court decision rejecting a US request for his extradition.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

1Like our page
BANGKOK — Thailand on Friday was set to deport a five-man plane crew that it detained with a 35-tonne cache of sanctions-busting arms from North Korea after charges against them were dropped.
Friday, 12 February 2010 10:27 AM
Newsmax Media, Inc.

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved