Massacre in Thailand raises questions on gun control

In the aftermath of the horrific massacre at a daycare centre in northeast Thailand yesterday, questions have been raised about the kingdom’s gun control laws. The murderer, 34 year old former police officer Panya Kamrap, had been fired due to his addiction to drugs.

Many Thai people have been unimpressed with Deputy PM Prawit’s response to tackling gun and drug crime in the kingdom. Thai reporters asked Prawit how he planned to prevent a similar scenario in the future from within Thailand’s police force. Prawit replied, “What can I do about it? He was a drug addict and has already departed. ”

Prawit later urged the relevant government departments to rally around stressed police officers with mental health problems and those suffering from drug addiction.

He also asked government departments to scrutinise the personal information of each officer in the recruitment stage for employing them to prevent a similar scenario in the future.

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Thailand was not on the list of 10 countries with the highest rates of violent gun deaths per 100,000 residents in 2019, published by the World Population Review. Yet, it was ranked as Southeast Asia’s second most-dangerous country in terms of gun crime after the Philippines. Thailand recorded 2,351 firearms deaths in 2019 – approximately 31% higher than the numbers for Pakistan, a country routinely described as “war-torn” and alleged home of thousands of terrorists.

Other major past shootings in Thailand include the Nakhon Ratchasima shootings of 2020, and 2021. In 2021 a soldier killed 21 people and injured dozens more in the province. A year earlier, in 2020, a soldier shot 29 people and wounded dozens of others before he was shot dead by commandos.

A report by Thai PBS last month revealed some alarming facts about gun use in Thailand. People in Thailand hold an estimated 10.3 million guns both legally and illegally. As of last year, the number of registered guns in Thailand totalled just over six million, according to the Interior Ministry. That means there are four million unregistered or illicit firearms in Thailand.

Under the law, people with no occupation or income or a fixed place of residence cannot own guns in Thailand. Drug abusers and other criminals are also banned from owning guns. But gun experts have said that people can get around the laws with bribes and “connections in the bureaucracy,” according to Thai PBS.

Panya was dismissed from the Thai police force in January last year for failing a drug test. He had served as a police officer for 10 years. His superiors previously warned him over his casual drug use but he was eventually dismissed after being reportedly caught with pills containing meth. According to Thai media, Panya had been addicted to drugs ever since he was in school. But he was still able to get his hands on a gun.

One colleague of Panya made known that he pulled a gun on a bank manager who woke him as he slept outside of the bank he was supposed to be protecting.

Another colleague added he constantly clashed with his wife over his affairs. Panya also confronted neighbours for allegedly being too noisy, and one time he shot another neighbour’s dog.

Gun law in Thailand appears pretty easy reading this forum, HERE. Time will tell whether Thailand’s government eventually strongly responds to illicit gun ownership in the country.

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Tara Abhasakun

A Thai-American dual citizen, Tara has reported news and spoken on a number of human rights and cultural news issues in Thailand. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in history from The College of Wooster. She interned at Southeast Asia Globe, and has written for a number of outlets. Tara reports on a range of Thailand news issues.

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