In the bustling metropolis of Bangkok, the Royal Thai Police department made quite a spectacle on Thursday, showcasing over 2,000 confiscated illegal firearms and a staggering 75,000 rounds of ammunition. The display was a result of a rigorous three-day crackdown carried out across the nation, following a tragic shooting incident at a popular shopping mall in the city.
According to reports, the nationwide operation was led by none other than the National Police Chief Torsak Sukvimol. Between October 9th and 11th, law enforcement officers orchestrated a total of 3,224 meticulously planned raids across the country. Their tireless efforts bore fruit, leading to the arrest of 1,593 suspects in connection with the unlawful arms and ammunition.
The crackdown saw officers seizing 1,789 unauthorized firearms ranging from blank guns to BB guns. In addition, they confiscated 219 registered firearms involved in illegal transactions and a mind-blowing total of 75,973 rounds of bullets.
This major operation was a direct response to an unnerving shooting incident that occurred on October 3rd at Siam Paragon, a prominent shopping mall in the heart of Bangkok. A young shooter, barely 14, opened fire at the shopping mall, claiming two innocent lives and injuring five others. The said teenager, who is currently under psychological evaluation, procured his modified blank gun illegally online.
In response to this horrific incident, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin ordered immediate and stringent action against all forms of illicit firearm trades. Interior Minister Anutin Charnvirakul supported this move by suspending the issue of permits for importing and trading firearms – a key step among seven short-term measures to reinforce the control of firearms in the country.
In the longer run, the authorities are considering amending the nation’s 76-year-old firearms law to fill in existing legal loopholes. Additionally, the police Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau (CCIB) collaborated with various agencies to curtail online trades of illegal firearms.
This led to a shutdown of 79 Facebook pages, 14 TikTok and Instagram accounts each, 148 Twitter handles, and 26 YouTube Channels involved in illegal gun sales. Despite these repressive measures, illegal possession of firearms remains a serious concern in Thailand.
As it currently stands, illegal possession of a firearm can result in imprisonment of up to 10 years and a hefty fine of 20,000 baht. Yet, the number of firearms in Thailand is disproportionately high compared to other Southeast Asian countries. A report by the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey in 2017 put Thailand 13th globally for small gun possession. With 10.3 million guns, only 6.2 million are registered. The World Population Review in 2022 further reported Thailand as being ranked 15th globally in gun deaths, with 2,804 people being victims of gun violence.