December 18, 2009 10:08
A Georgian cargo plane carrying North Korean weapons was not impounded in Thailand during a refueling stop, as previously believed, but was forced to land by fighter planes after it entered Thai airspace, the influential Russian daily Kommersant reported Thursday.
The Ilyushin Il-76 left Pyongyang on Dec. 12. The moment it entered Thai airspace, two Thai fighters on standby ordered it to land at Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok based on a tip-off from a foreign intelligence agency, the daily said.
The Thai government announced that the plane was impounded after it landed for refueling and checks of wheels and tires. The news suggests that the cargo plane, which was attempting to carry North Korean weapons to a foreign country in disregard of a UN embargo, was stopped in Thai airspace before it could proceed to a scheduled refueling stop to Sri Lanka.
Thai daily The Nation said that an English-language weapons manual was discovered in the process of checking the North Korean arms. There is speculation that the weapons might not have originated from North Korea, the daily added.
According to Thai law, the five crewmembers face a sentence between two years in jail and death depending on whether they were attempting to deliver the weapons to a war zone.
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