Wednesday, April 24, 2024

An Outlier in Asia on Guns – The Diplomat



Police in riot gear aim rubber bullet shotguns at protesters trying to march past the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation APEC summit site, Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, in Bangkok, Thailand.

Credit: AP Photo/Vasan Vanichakorn


Prayut Chan-o-cha was very excited. “I haven’t attended Songkran celebrations since I became a soldier… I feel refreshed,” Said The Prime Minister of Thailand, a surprise participant in the “world’s largest water fight” ushering in the Thai New Year. The annual free-for-all had resumed after a three-year break due to COVID-19. Chan-o-cha, wearing a Hawaiian shirt Spray Pedestrians on Khaosan Road in Bangkok with colorful Super Soakers.

former army chief’s water gun There was a throwback to his military days: a replica of a large pump action shotgun.

There is a deep, undying love of guns in Thailand. The public display of firearms, real or fake, in the majority-Buddhist nation usually doesn’t raise an eyebrow. Every January, on National Children’s Day, youngsters are invited to military bases to get acquainted with the heavy weapons of war.

Recently, however, some citizens have begun to voice their disapproval. is commenting Photos Children wielding rifles and other firearms, Boonwara Sumano, a social scientist at the Thailand Development Research Institute, Asked: “What kind of values ​​are we implanting in the future of our nation?”


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Such questions have become more urgent since Thailand Fatal The mass shooting at a government-run childcare facility six months ago. The brutality of the attack in Nong Bua Lamphu province shocked the nation: the victims, mostly young children, were killed in their classroom during a nap. shooter received his semi-automatic Weapon legally. “When I learned it was an ex-policeman who carried out the nursery attack, I thought, ‘When will there be stricter gun laws for men in uniform?’ expressed displeasure A survivor of the 2020 massacre perpetrated by a disgruntled soldier.

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Mass shootings are rare in Thailand, but smaller gun incidents happen with shocking regularity. Last December, a man in Ranong Province removed During the morning assembly, 18 bullets were fired at the primary school angry with the voices of the children. crossfire among tuk-tuk drivers, furious gun-wielding customers in grocery stores, or violent street Anger Incidents are irresistible fodder for TV news channels. one armed Political Alas, “people pull out their guns at a moment’s notice.”

The US State Department reportedly noted in 2013, give advice Staff, “Thailand has a fervent gun culture comparable to that of the United States.” but as the New York Times Number On the outside, there are fundamental differences between the two firearms-obsessed nations. Carrying a gun in Thailand is not a political statement; Instead, it confers prestige: “Like other status symbols, guns are what the few have and the many want.”

For years, a militarized political establishment has presided over the proliferation of legal and illegal firearms. an academic Abbreviation Status: “With 14 coups in Thailand since 1932, the army and police are omnipresent – ​​and so are their guns.” Guns Are for the Average Citizen expensive And it’s hard to get. However, government officials can purchase an unlimited number of highly subsidized firearms for self-protection through programs such as the “gun welfare” scheme. in a flurry Criticism After the recent mass shootings, the Bangkok Post argued that much of the “abuse” perks had turned into actual pipelines in the underground market.


Firearms smuggling has long been a lucrative side hustle for Thai security personnel. In 1998, economist Pasuk Phongpaichit’s bestselling to expose “Guns, Girls, Gambling, Ganja: Thailand’s Illicit Economy and Public Policy” delves into the illegal arms trade. He found that prominent politicians and military officers had smuggled American-made weapons from Thai military stockpiles into the underground market. “The banned arms trade still exists because influential people are involved,” he wrote, Recent raids and arrests A reminder that the theft of guns from the military remains an ongoing problem.

At last count, there were over 10 million in Thailand. gunsonly 60 percent of which were legal. The rate of gun ownership is among the highest in all of East and Southeast Asia. The Buddhist kingdom is markedly different in a continent where citizens rarely own guns.