Thailand detains plane from NKorea with weapons cache

BANGKOK: Thai authorities have detained five people who landed in Bangkok in an east European cargo plane full of heavy weapons that originated in North Korea, officials told AFP today.

The plane’s pilot requested to land at Bangkok’s domestic Don Mueang airport this morning, said government spokesman Panitan Wattanayakorn, and on inspecting the aircraft Thai officials found the cache.

“An eastern European airline asked to land this morning at Don Mueang airport to refuel its tank. When Thai authorities examined the aircraft they found a lot of weapons and detained up to five people,” Panitan said.

He later said the weapons had been transferred to Takhli Air Force base in the central Thai province of Nakhon Sawan. Lieutenant General Thangai Prasajaksattru, commander of Thailand’s Central Investigation Bureau, confirmed that five men from eastern Europe had been detained, but he did not yet know their nationalities. “There were a lot of weapons such as rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), missiles and other war weapons,” he said.

National television channels reported that four of the detained men are

from Kazakhstan and one is from Belarus, and said US officials had tipped off Thai authorities before they found the cache.

But a spokesman for the US Embassy in Bangkok, Michael Turner, said he was unaware of the incident.

Air Force spokesman Captain Montol Suchookorn and special branch police said the chartered cargo plane originated in North Korea’s capital Pyongyang.

“According to my information, the flight originated from North Korea. It

was a cargo flight that requested to land at the civilian side of the airport,” Montol said, adding that the Air Force was continuing to guard the aircraft.

AOT, Thailand’s aviation authority, said Don Mueang airport remained open to passengers.