One typically quiet Thursday afternoon, Royal Thai Police headquarters in Bangkok became a whirlwind of activity as they proudly displayed more than 2,000 illegally possessed firearms, seized during a rigorous three-day nationwide operation. This awe-inspiring collection of confiscated weaponry, which also consisted of an astonishing 75,000 rounds of ammunition, served as a stark reminder of the success of the police’s mission.
Lasting from October 9 through 11, the officers executed a meticulous sweep at 3,224 sites across the nation. Police Chief Torsak Sukvimol delivered the news on the operation’s outcome, revealing that a staggering 1,593 suspects had been apprehended. The bounty collected during these searches included 1,789 unlawfully possessed firearms, ranging from unassuming BB guns to high-potential blank guns. Also confiscated in this nationwide sweep were 219 legally registered weapons found to be in the process of illegal transfer.
The impetus for this comprehensive crackdown was a horrific shooting incident on October 3 in Bangkok’s bustling Siam Paragon shopping mall. The teen shooter’s violent spree claimed two innocent lives and inflicted injuries on five others. It was later found that this young perpetrator had purchased the modified blank gun implicated in the act from an online source.
This heart-wrenching event prompted Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin to order a sweeping and decisive offensive against illegal firearms across Thailand. Consequently, Interior Minister Anutin Charnvirakul suspended the issuance of all firearm import and trade permits as a part of his seven integrated short-term measures to tighten control over the nation’s firearm market. To iron out potential legal vulnerabilities in gun control, authorities are also contemplating amendments to the country’s 76-year-old firearms law.
The police’s digital forensic unit, known as the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau (CCIB), has committed itself to collaborate with other organizations in a concentrated effort to combat the illegal sales of guns on social media platforms. As per Police General Torsak’s statements, this endeavor has so far resulted in the deactivation of 79 Facebook pages, 14 TikTok accounts, 148 Twitter handles, 26 YouTube channels, and 14 Instagram accounts.
The consequences of illegal firearm possession in Thailand are severe, with offenders facing potential imprisonment of up to a decade and hefty fines up to 20,000 baht. Despite stringent laws, Thailand has a comparatively high level of gun ownership, even when compared to its Southeast Asia neighbors. A 2017 survey by the Switzerland-based Small Arms organisation indicated that Thailand ranks 13th globally, with approximately 10.3 million guns – of which only 6.2 million are registered – among the populace.
In fact, data from the World Population Review in 2022 suggested Thailand to be the 15th most prominent country in terms of gun-related fatalities globally, with 2,804 recorded deaths. This figure corresponds to a mortality rate of about 3.91 individuals per 100,000 population.