Thai army officers charged over online arms trading


Bangkok (AFP)

Several Thai army officers were charged Friday over an online weapons market that saw soldiers sell grenades and bullets over social media, in a country where military weapons routinely turn up on the streets.

Three soldiers pilfered M67 hand grenades and bullets from a stockpile at a Bangkok army base and sold them over the LINE messaging app, police allege.

"They smuggled out the weapons and grenades and put them on sale in a private social media group," according to Santi Chainiramai, deputy commander of Crime Suppression Division Police.

Four other army officers, a policeman and nine civilians were charged with arms buying, he added.

Police are working out the size of the network, whose dealings emerged last week when postal workers found two packages containing grenades and bullets.

The case provides a rare window into how military arms may slip into the hands of Thai criminals and powerful figures including political militants.

Thai political protests over the last decade have witnessed deaths caused by war weapons -- including M16 rifles and M79 grenade launchers.

The army has repeatedly justified crackdowns and military coups because of the abundance of war weapons on the street.

The ruling junta says it was forced to grab power in 2014 to instate calm after the latest round of protests and political turmoil.

Both of the kingdom's rival political camps have been known to harbour armed elements in their ranks.

In a separate case last week, an air force officer was taken into custody after a cache of machine guns, rifles and grenades were discovered in his pick-up truck after a road accident near the Cambodian border.