Over the past several years, we have had several posts on military involvement in weapons trafficking. Often this trafficking is one of the money-making ventures used by senior commanders to produce illicit loot and unusual wealth. In short, arms trafficking is a perquisite of rank, using underlings to move and sell the weapons.
Of course, such actions can involve rogue soldiers but it is the impunity they get from their uniforms and the political dominance of their bosses that allows them to engage in illicit money-making.
There are two recent reports worthy of note about military gun-running and weapons trading.
The first is of a mail-order weapons scam. Military grenades were being sent via couriers. This came to light when “eight M67 grenades were found with a courier” in Bangkok.
The military were involved in the investigation. That seems odd in itself, although police are mentioned later in the report.
As usually happens, they were able to immediately blame “a network of 30 people including a Bangkok-based soldier…”. It is said that “a source” claims “the military had been tracking as many as 30 people suspected of trading in grenades by taking orders from customers in many provinces.”
The “source said the real sender was an engineering sergeant in Bangkok who had stolen grenades from a Bangkok army unit with the intention of selling them.”
The 1st army commander Apirat Kongsompong reportedly “ordered tough actions against any soldier behind the thefts and illicit grenade trade, and against any supervisors who failed to prevent the crime.” Yet it is claimed the “network” has been highly active. Army boss Chalermchai Sitthisart had “ordered army units to cooperate with the police investigation into the grenade sales and check their weapons stocks.”
Any “connection between the illegal grenade sale and three recent bombings in Bangkok” were denied.
The notion that soldiers and officers have long been involved in arms trafficking is not addressed.
The second story is of an ISOC officer running guns. This case came to light after a pickup ran off the road in Trat.
The story is that “local residents and naval paramilitary rangers rushed to help the slightly injured driver from the badly damaged vehicle” when they found weapons and ammunition, in the pickup, being driven by “an air force officer…”.
The officer is said to be “in custody.”Again, he’s held by the military and the police seem not involved, although they too are mentioned later in the report.
The pickup was carrying “29 AK-47 rifles, four 7.62mm machine guns, 4,147 AK-47 bullets, and 53 grenades to be used with launchers inside the vehicle.” In addition, it is reported that “[a]uthorities also found a rocket-propelled grenade, 42 machine-gun magazines, a hand grenade and ten 9mm bullets.”
(We do recall that “investigations” of 2010 events by the military stating that the military didn’t have AK-47s.)
The air force officer driving “was identified as Flt Sgt Pakhin [or perhaps Manas] Detphong of Wing 2 from Lop Buri, attached to the Internal Security Operations Command in Bangkok.” He is said to have “refused to make a statement about the weapons and authorities had yet to find out what his destination was.”
ISOC is an internal security agency that reports to the prime minister and which is under the command of the army’s boss, General Chalermchai. ISOC has been involved in numerous operations to undermine people’s sovereignty and has undermined several governments. No one in it may be trusted.
Very interestingly, “Vice Adm Rattana Wongsaroj, marine commander for Trat and Chanthaburi provinces,” rushed to the navy site where the officer was being held.
An alleged civilian accomplice was given VIP treatment in moving through military border checkpoints, immediately suggesting high-level backing.
This report does note that this “case is the latest in an innumerable series of incidents that expose what appears to be lax security at Thai military facilities where weapons are stored.” That makes Apirat’s gruff statement seem all too tame. He knows as well as everyone else that weapons trading is lucrative for many in the military and makes generals wealthy.