Unarmed forces: Thai army suffers first weapon theft of the year

Originally published at Siam Voices

Media outlets have reported on Friday that over 130 weapons have been stolen from an army arsenal at 1st Infantry Battalion at the army’s Infantry Centre in Prachuap Khiri Khan province. The disappearance was noted during an inspection by a commander of the battalion and quickly reported local police on Thursday night. The weapons missing make up quite an impressive loot:

Capt Apiwat [Saengsoong, a company commander of the 1st Infantry Battalion] said the weapons found to be missing were: 117 M16 rifles, ten 11mm handguns, ten rocket propelled grenade (RPG) launchers, five M79 grenade launchers, four M60 machine guns, one 60mm mortar, four Minimi light machineguns and a large quantity of assorted ammunition.

Guns missing from arsenal, sergeant-major flees“, Bangkok Post, February 4, 2011

During the day, some weapons have been found though:

On Friday morning Lt-Col Manorot and military police went to search the house of a sergeant major who was suspected to have stolen the weapons, and found part of the missing arsenal. However, the sergeant major was not there. He fled before military police arrived.

Guns missing from arsenal, sergeant-major flees“, Bangkok Post, February 4, 2011

Army weapons being stolen are a regular occurrence with at least two similar incidents reported in the last 12 months – the last one in September in Lop Buri and the other in March earlier that year from a base in the southern province of Phatthalung. In both incidents, there were no signs of break-ins or any other traces of force. All-in-all, a pretty big embarrassment for the armed forces.

The question now in such cases is what happens with the weapons and where do they go. In this particular case, the suspicion seems to be already very clear:

The source said the sergeant major who had fled was known to be involved in illegal arms trading.  Nobody knew which groups he had sold weapons to — be they Karen on the Thai-Burmese border, the red-shirts or southern insurgents.

Guns missing from arsenal, sergeant-major flees“, Bangkok Post, February 4, 2011

Also, to underline that this is not a new phenomenon The Straits Times wrote about this matter back in October.

Most of this war material went overland to insurgents in Burma and Laos, (…) But it is the domestic sourcing that is likely most relevant to the unsettled atmosphere now prevalent in Thailand.

Weaponry obtained in Thailand and destined for the black market trade originated mainly from local military stocks or from unscrupulous arms dealers. (…)

“According to a Bangkok-based intelligence source,” I wrote in 2000, “one method of siphoning from Thai army stocks involves over-reporting the amount of ammunition consumed during training exercises.”

The paper further notes: “Locally- sourced military equipment is largely purloined from Royal Thai Army stocks. This includes material simply stolen from storage areas and material obtained with the collusion of corrupt military personnel who over-report usage and siphon off the excess.

Arms trafficking in Thailand not a new phenomenon“, by Robert Karniol, The Straits Times, October 18, 2010

The author points out the attempts to link the disappearance of the weapons to radical, violent elements of the red shirts or a third party inciting chaos in order to destabilize the national security and to discredit any anti-government movement, as seen during the red shirt protests last year where numerous explosions have occurred, mostly by M79 grenade launchers.

Shortly after the weapons theft in March 2010, there was a certain amount of fear that these would be used during the red shirts’ protest that began shortly thereafter. Now we have yet another theft and also another upcoming red shirt protest next week – so let’s see how long it will take until the finger pointing starts.

BONUS: For those who understand Thai I recommend to watch this post by @thaitvnews, where it shows that the army has denied the disappearance a few times until they have finally admitted that the weapons are gone…!


2 thoughts on “Unarmed forces: Thai army suffers first weapon theft of the year

  1. Wondering where and when the military-mafia hitmen in black will strike, and to what particular end?

    EC might ask for use of ISA

    Mrs Sodsri expressed her concern about the actions of a group of people who keep yelling insults at the prime minister when he appears at public functions. She said such incidents were signs that political parties might not be able campaign properly in areas that are rival parties’ political strongholds.

    The EC would ask the military and the police to step up security measures during election campaigning, she said.

    The EC also has the authority to cancel the election in constituencies where violence breaks out, she said. In the past, the EC had cancelled polling in some flooded constituencies but, so far, had never cancelled an election because of political disputes.

    If political violence occurs in any constituency, the EC may ask the government to invoke the Internal Security Act to ensure peace and order in those constituencies, Mrs Sodsri said.

    So arrogant, so sure of their power, are they that they don’t even try to cover their tracks anymore, they don’t bother to wipe their finger prints off the murder weapons, they make their hits in broad daylight without even bothering to wear masks. They telegraph their intentions before they strike, publish them in the Mafia Post.

  2. The Thai military is organized crime. They have competing ‘families’ as does the Sicilian mafia.

    In this case, perhaps Lt-Col Manorot is the Capo of one branch ‘dropping the dime’ – making the phone call to the authorities, usually anonymously from a pay phone but here wanting to take the credit – on a rival gang within the military.

    But that may be the side-show, the epiphenomenon..

    We need to brace ourselves for more attacks on the Thai public by the Thai military-mafia and subsequent accusations of red shirt involvement from the Distributed Dis-Information Corps… aka the Thai MSM.

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