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Questions for a country in grief about guns, drugs, and mental health

Since Thursday’s daycare atrocity, Thailand has had to address some unpleasant issues.

Gregory Raymond is a lecturer at the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs. Raymond raises some concerns for Thais in an ABC News article.

The alleged gunman was a former police officer facing meth possession charges after being fired over drug suspicions.

The horrifying tragedy has ignited a national dialogue about weapons, drugs, and mental health as spring elections approach.

Thailand has few lone-gunman massacres. There’s only one other catastrophe like Uthai Sawan. A Thai soldier killed 29 and wounded 58 in Nakhon Ratchasima in February 2020.

Poverty and poor mental healthcare fuel COVID-19. Buddhist stoicism is embracing pain and persevering through difficulties. Since the pandemic began, there has been pain and official hostility.

The economy shrank by more than 6% in 2020, and many workers lost jobs, especially in hospitality and tourism. Kids from disadvantaged homes stopped attending to school. This might become a generational issue if they don’t return.

Thailand is better than most of Southeast Asia in terms of welfare, but mental health support is lacking.

Opposition parties have sometimes campaigned on security reform. Military conscription is one. Every April, all men over 21 must register for the draft lottery. This unpopular practice was an election issue.

Because of the country’s governance, the military is in many ways the government.

Methamphetamine use is another problem. Meth has replaced opium since it’s less noticeable than poppy fields. The UNODC warns about meth spreading through the Mekong area, mainly through Thailand. Anti-drug agencies believe such volumes can’t be moved without heavy protection. It’s not new. It dates from the Golden Triangle era. Thaksin Shinawatra initiated an extrajudicial anti-drug campaign in 2003.

Thailand doesn’t regulate guns. There’s no “gun lobby” in Thailand, but this massacre may change that. The pistol used in this week’s massacre was legally purchased. The community has several weapons, and it’s easy to get one.

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