Thai Court Denies Bail for Weapons Aircraft Crew

Monday a Thai court denied release on bail for the five crew members of the plane that landed Friday in Bangkok loaded with North Korean weapons.

Police spokesman Pongsapat Pongchareon says bail was denied was because of the quantity of the war weapons aboard the plane, and the fact the crew are foreigners. If they were released temporarily on bail, he says, they may escape, and there is also an issue of their own safety. Pongsapat says the crew will be incarcerated for 12 days.

Thailand will hold the crew of a cargo plane in prison while investigating their role in smuggling weapons from North Korea. Regional experts say the seizure reflects the firmness of international sanctions against the North., Voice of America reports.

Meanwhile, Russia's Interfax News Agency cited a senior transport ministry official in Khazakstan, Radilbek Adimolda, as saying at a news conference that the detained Ilyushin-76 was previously owned by a Kazakh airline, East Wing. The plane was acquired in October by Air West Georgia, Mr. Adimolda said.

Air West Georgia, a small carrier of freight, couldn't be reached at Moscow numbers listed in the phone book.

East Wing is on the European Union's blacklist of airlines prohibited from flying in the EU because they violate global air-safety rules. According to AeroTransport Data Bank, East Wing is the successor to another Kazakh airline, GST Aero Co., which also is on the EU blacklist. Investigators at Amnesty International and other advocacy organizations have linked GST to international arms trafficking.

Mr. Adimolda said the four Kazakh crew on the impounded plane were listed among East Wing's staff, but were on unpaid leave, The Wall Street Journal reports.

It was also reported, before the weekend incident, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had described Bosworth's Pyongyang trip as "quite positive." It was the first official U.S. visit of the Obama administration.

She stressed the need for "strategic patience" in dealing with Kim's reclusive state.

Some say the plane's capture days after Bosworth's trip could try that patience. "For the short term, it might have a slight impact on the recent U.S-North Korea conversations," said Kim, the Dongguk professor.

He added that the incident, so close to the high-profile nuclear negotiations, could also signal North Korea's desperate reliance on its arms sales.

"Arms shipment accounts for the biggest proportion of North Korea's income," he said. "Therefore, North Korea is implying that it cannot help but do this [unless it receives] international aid," The Los Angeles Times reports.

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