Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Friday announced an investigation into firearms Thai officials found in a crashed pickup truck just beyond a border checkpoint in early June, saying the weapons “could have been smuggled” from Cambodia, officials said.
Mr. Kheng made the comments during a ceremony appointing Mithona Phouthorng as the new governor of Koh Kong province, the first women named to such a post in Cambodia, provincial officials said.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng speaks at the appointing ceremony of Koh Kong provincial new governor Mithona Phouthorng on Friday, in a photograph posted to Interior Ministry website.Bun Loeut, whom Ms. Phouthorn replaced as governor of the coastal province, confirmed Mr. Kheng told the gathering that the arms — which included machine guns, AK-47 assault rifles, ammunition and grenades — “could have been smuggled from Cambodia.”
Mr. Kheng could not be reached Friday for comment and Interior Minister spokesman Khieu Sopheak said he was unaware of the investigation announcement as he had not attended the appointment ceremony in Khemara Phoumint City.
Provincial police chief Samkhit Vien confirmed that the Interior Minister had ordered a probe into the arms cache, but said he had yet to receive “specific orders” to guide the investigation. He said National Police also are working on the case, which broke June 3 when the cache of guns and bullets was found in the crashed truck in Thailand’s Trat province.

The Defense Ministry also said earlier this month that it was investigating allegations by Thai authorities that the weapons had been illegally smuggled across Cambodia’s border. Thai investigators said the seized weapons were intended to be sold in Burma, The Bangkok Post reported.
A Thai military officer pulled from the vehicle wreckage, air force officer Pakhin Detphong, had admitted under questioning to buying the arms from an unidentified Cambodian, Thai officials said.
Lean Pisith, a police officer working at the Interior Ministry’s immigration department, was arrested on June 3 as he drove toward Cambodia, not far from the wreckage, according to Sovan Bunthoeun, director of the Cham Yeam International Checkpoint in Koh Kong province.
Mr. Pisith and two other Thai nationals were charged with illegal weapons possession and were being held in Trat Provincial Prison awaiting trial on suspicion of weapons smuggling, The Bangkok Post reported on June 18.
Reports in Thai media also claimed that the arms cache was connected to Defense Minister Tea Banh, an allegation General Banh denied on June 12. He said the arms cache was not from Cambodia and that the Cambodian man arrested at the scene was not an official.
General Banh said at the time that the man was arrested because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Kirth Chantharith, a spokesman for the National Police, could not be reached for comment on Friday.
phearun@cambodiadaily.com
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