Japan police arrest former Bangkok police chief for possessing loaded gun at airport

TOKYO (AFP) - Japanese law enforcement officers have arrested a former senior policeman from Thailand for possessing a loaded gun, officials said on Wednesday.

Mr Comronwit Toopgrajank, 60, identified as a onetime Bangkok police chief by the Thai Embassy in Tokyo, was arrested on Monday at Narita Airport as he tried to leave the country, a spokesman told AFP.

Officials stationed at the airport discovered a revolver with five live rounds in Mr Toopgrajank's suitcase and arrested him on the spot on suspicion of violating the firearm control law, the spokesman said.

The suspect told the police "the gun was his own and was a gift from a friend, and that he had forgotten he had put it inside the suitcase", the official said. "He entered Japan on June 19, and said he visited a waste incineration plant as part of a group of some 80 people," the police official added.

A Thai embassy official told AFP that Mr Comronwit was being quizzed by prosecutors.

Thai junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha said on Wednesday he had ordered officials at the country’s biggest airport Suvarnabhumi to investigate whether Mr Comronwit was able to take the pistol through security before flying to Japan.

“I have ordered the investigation to look at whether he can smuggle such a thing on board and whether he passed through X-ray machines,” he told reporters.

Such a security breach, if proven, would be a major embarrassment for Thailand at a time when its aviation industry is under increased scrutiny.

Last week, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) “red flagged” Thailand after it failed to meet a deadline to address a “significant safety concern” about how air operators are certified.

Analysts say that move could prompt further scrutiny by aviation bodies in the United States and Europe as well as make it harder for Thai airlines to find insurance or lease new aircraft.

General Prayut has vowed to meet the ICAO’s demands.

Mr Comronwit’s detention also comes a fortnight after five Thais were detained at Lahore airport in Pakistan after one of them tried to board a plane with a pistol and ammunition.

So far they had not been linked to any insurgent groups in Thailand.

Mr Comronwit headed the police in Thailand’s capital between July 2012 and May 2014, the same month Thailand’s generals seized power in a coup. He retired later that year.

While Japanese police do carry guns, Japan has very strict firearms control laws and few people possess weapons or have come into contact with them.

Thailand’s police are armed and the country has one of Asia’s highest gun murder rates.