Monday, December 14, 2009

Freight Aircraft With North Korean Arms Seized At Bangkok Airport

35-Tonne Payload of Weapons and Ammunition Causes US Concern
Shipping News Feature

THAILAND – An Ilyushin IL-76 freight aircraft was seized on Saturday at Bangkok’s Don Muang airport after a tip-off from unspecified ‘government agencies’ that it was carry a large shipment of illegal North Korean weapons.

Thai authorities report that the cargo aircraft contained about 35 tons of weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades, surface-to-air missile launchers and spare parts. They also said they planned to hold the aircraft and the five crewmen, four from Kazakhstan and one from Belarus, for twelve days whilst their investigations are under way.

If the men are found guilty of arms smuggling then they face ten years in jail.

The pilot has claimed that the shipment was bound for Sri Lanka, which in turn has been denied by that country’s government, who have pointed out they have no need to purchase such items from North Korea when they acquire them perfectly legitimately from China.

Instead it seems likely that the haul is part of what US investigators are alleging is a billion-dollar arms smuggling industry originating in North Korea that supplies regimes under embargo such as Iran’s and terrorist organisations.

The profits from this trade are used, they state, to fund North Korea’s nuclear program.

The seizure is the latest of several in recent months which are noticeable for the sheer quantities that are being discovered. For more reports on these see 1 / 2 / 3 / 4