Friday, December 25, 2009

'Weapons were for Sri Lanka' says crew

A crew charged in Thailand with illegal arms possession say their plane was headed for Sri Lanka and not Iran, when it was seized in the Thai capital with a cache of North Korean weapons, media reports from Thailand reported on Wednesday (23).

Defense lawyer Somsak Saithong had told the media that the four Kazakhstan citizens and one from Belarus, as saying that their flight plan called for a refueling stop in Bangkok before flying to Sri Lanka.

But according to a flight plan seen by arms trafficking researchers, the aircraft was chartered by Hong Kong-based Union Top Management Ltd., or UTM, to fly oil industry spare parts from Pyongyang to Tehran, Iran, with several other stops, including in Azerbaijan and Ukraine.

"They always deny any involvement with the weapons or any charges they are accused of. They told me that their job was just to fly the cargo plane to its destination. They don't know about or had anything to do with the cargo itself" said Somsak.

The plane's papers described its cargo as oil-drilling machinery for delivery to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan authorities had earlier rejected reports that the plane was heading for Sri Lanka

In an interview with the BBC, Expert on International terrorism, Dr. Rohan Gunaratne said the weapon were not heading towards Sri Lanka.

"During the conflict, the Tamil Tigers got ninety percent of their weapons from North Korea but they came on ships." says Dr. Gunaratne.

© BBC Sinhala

Related Links:
Thais: US tip led to seizure of arms from NKorea -
Days after U.S. envoy's trip to N.Korea, U.N.banned weapons are seized - LA Times
North Korean Arms Transport Plane Part of CIA Sting Operation -
Plane crew denies knowledge of arms - Deccan Herald
Officials Seek Destination of North Korean Arms - The New York Times
Weapons-carrying cargo plane headed for Sri Lanka - Associated Press
North Korea weapons aircraft 'was heading to Iran' - Times Online
Iran denies involvement in arms-laden plane incident - RIA Novosti
Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan disavow arms flight from North Korea - Guardian
North Korean arms plane 'has links to New Zealand'- Times Online
New Zealand probes links to North Korea arms plane - The Nation
NZ Businessman: Unaware of North Korea Weapons - The Wall Street Journal

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