Bangkok air­port de­nies se­cu­rity slip af­ter Tokyo finds a gun in po­lice chief’s lug­gage


Air­port of­fi­cials in Thai­land say they fol­lowed proper se­cu­rity mea­sures and gave no spe­cial treat­ment to Bangkok’s for­mer po­lice chief who was ar­rested ear­lier this week in Tokyo with a loaded gun in his lug­gage.

Lt. Gen. Com­ron­wit Thoop­gra­jank was ar­rested Mon­day at Tokyo’s Narita In­ter­na­tional Air­port on his way back to Bangkok with a hand­gun con­tain­ing five bul­lets in his check-in lug­gage, ac­cord­ing to a po­lice of­fi­cial at Narita who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause of in­ves­tiga­tive pol­icy.

The of­fi­cial said the gun was de­tected by X-ray check af­ter it passed the air­line check-in counter. Com­ron­wit had in the mean­time ob­tained his board­ing pass and gone to the gate, where po­lice brought his suit­case and opened it in his pres­ence. Com­ron­wit con­firmed the con­tents were his, said the of­fi­cial.

The of­fi­cial said Com­ron­wit’s ex­pla­na­tion was that he had for­got­ten the gun was in his suit­case.

Com­ron­wit was Bangkok’s po­lice chief from 2012 to 2014 and then re­tired. His ar­rest has been front-page news in Thai­land as ques­tions swirled over whether he got a gun past air­port se­cu­rity at Bangkok’s Su­varn­ab­humi Air­port or if he ob­tained in Ja­pan and why.

It also di­rected an un­wanted spotlight on Thai­land’s avi­a­tion sec­tor, com­ing shortly af­ter the U.N. body reg­u­lat­ing world air traf­fic said Thai­land had failed to meet a dead­line for ad­dress­ing safety con­cerns about over­sight of its air­lines. The In­ter­na­tional Civil Avi­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion said its con­cern was fo­cused on Thai­land’s abil­ity to con­duct air op­er­a­tor cer­ti­fi­ca­tions, and placed it on a list of coun­tries whose avi­a­tion author­i­ties fall short of in­ter­na­tional stan­dards.

Su­varn­ab­humi of­fi­cials called a news con­fer­ence Thurs­day to deny any breach in se­cu­rity. They showed a de­tailed slideshow of screen­shots from CCTV footage show­ing Com­ron­wit en­ter­ing the air­port and go­ing through se­cu­rity, re­mov­ing his shoes and get­ting two carry-on bags checked by se­cu­rity scan­ners.

“The find­ings can con­firm that no guns or am­mu­ni­tion were found” in the carry-ons or on the re­tired of­fi­cer him­self, said Su­varn­ab­humi Air­port Gen­eral Man­ager Sirote Duan­gratana. He said a print­out of a se­cu­rity re­port from his checked-in bag­gage “showed that it was cleared and the lug­gage did not have any haz­ardous ma­te­rial.”

“Our sys­tem meets the stan­dards that are be­ing used world­wide,” said Sirote, adding that Com­ron­wit was not given any spe­cial treat­ment. High-rank­ing po­lice of­fi­cers in Thai­land are cus­tom­ar­ily given VIP treat­ment.

In Ja­pan, car­ry­ing a gun is illegal ex­cept for po­lice and oth­ers li­censed for hunt­ing and other lim­ited pur­poses. Vi­o­la­tors can face up to 10 years in prison.

Com­ron­wit was handed over to pros­e­cu­tors on Wed­nes­day. Un­der Ja­panese law, pros­e­cu­tors have up to 23 days to de­cide whether to press charges.

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