Thailand deports 5 Crewmen to Kazakhstan

    The five crewmen of an aircraft carrying 35 tons of weapons that was impounded at Don Mueang airport in Thailand last December have left Thailand for Kazakhstan.
    The men were deported yesterday after public prosecutors threw out all charges against them.
    The five include two pilots from Kazakhstan, Ilyas Issakov and Vitaliy Shunkov, and three other crew members, Viktor Abdulavey and Alexandr Zrybnev, both from Kazakhstan, and Mikhail Petukou from Belarus.
    They were charged with carrying weapons without permission, illegally bringing them into Thailand and failing to inform officials of the items.
    Weapons on the aircraft included explosives, rocket-propelled grenades, and surface-to-air missiles.
    Yesterday, the five men were escorted by about 50 security officers at Suvarnabhumi Airport before they boarded an Air Astana flight to Kazakhstan, a source in the Immigration Police Bureau said.
    The Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) decided not to indict the five because they did not intend to use the weapons in Thailand.
    Consideration was also given to the impact on Thailand's relations with Kazakhstan and Belarus.
    The two countries have asked through the Foreign Ministry to be allowed to take over the case from Thailand, the OAG said.
    Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday he trusted the judgement of the OAG in dropping the charges.
    At the same time, the government would follow the United Nations' guidelines on what to do with the impounded weapons. The government is waiting for these guidelines.
    The United States said yesterday it respects the decision of Thai prosecutors to deport the crew of the plane.
    "This is a matter for the Thai Attorney-General's office to decide and we respect the independence of Thailand's system," Cynthia A Brown, a spokeswoman for the US embassy in Bangkok, said by telephone.
    The US commends Thailand for implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1874, she added, according to the Bangkok Post.