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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Thai court detains crew of plane carrying N.Korean arms

RIA Novosti

10:48 14/12/2009 BAKGKOK, December 14 (RIA Novosti) - A criminal court in Bangkok approved 12 days of custody on Monday for the Kazakh and Belarusian crew of a plane caught transporting arms from North Korea.

The Il-76 cargo plane, carrying about 40 tons of weaponry, was seized on Saturday after landing for refueling at Bangkok's Don Muang airport. Officials said the weapons included missiles and rocket-propelled grenades.

The plane's five crew members, of whom one is from Belarus and the other four are from Kazakhstan, were taken to Bangkok's Klong Prem Central Prison.

They may be charged with illegal storage and transportation of weapons and providing false information. A United Nations resolution bans the transportation of certain weapons, including conventional arms, to or from North Korea.

The Bangkok Post quoted investigators as saying the crew were planning to offload part of their cargo in Sri Lanka and the Middle East. However, the suspects reportedly refused to name the buyers or locations.

Earlier the plane's Belarusian commander said that the plane had flown from Ukraine, and claimed that neither he nor the other crewmembers knew of the military nature of the cargo.

Mikhail Petukhov was earlier quoted by the Thai news agency TNA as saying the aircraft refueled in Azerbaijan, then in the United Arab Emirates, and then in Thailand while en route to Pyongyang. The plane's commander said the aircraft was scheduled to refuel in Thailand and Sri Lanka on its way back, after which the cargo was expected to be delivered to Ukraine.

TNA said Thai authorities were preparing a report for the UN on the seizure of the plane.

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