Thailand, the “Land of Smiles,” has the highest rate of gun ownership in Southeast Asia. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Thailand, the “Land of Smiles,” has the highest rate of gun ownership in Southeast Asia.

Gun stores dot the streets, and men and women of all ages gather at gun ranges.

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In the wake of the October shooting in the eastern U.S. state of Maine, in which 31 people were killed or wounded, there have been calls for stricter gun control in the U.S. “But it is said that there are more guns in Thailand than in the U.S. But it is said that the number of guns illegally circulating in Thailand is larger than in the U.S.” (Thai police official).

In fact, a horrific incident occurred in the capital city of Bangkok in October of this year. A gunman opened fire in a shopping mall where many Japanese tourists gathered, killing and injuring seven people. The shock was compounded when it was learned that the man arrested was a 14-year-old boy.

Male customers look at the show window of a gun store. Some gun stores offer to apply for a permit to carry a gun on their behalf.

The boy had obtained a model gun that had been modified to fire live ammunition via social networking sites.

We followed the dark side of Thailand, the largest gun society in Southeast Asia.

Around the Old Siam Plaza, a long-established shopping center in Bangkok, dozens of gun stores line the streets.

I like Glocks,” he said. If I see something I like, I want to buy it.

A middle-aged Thai man who was looking at the guns through a show window replied, “Glock is the one to buy. The Glock is one of the most popular guns of the same type as the model gun owned by the 14-year-old suspect.

Glocks that have been modified to fire full-auto and continuously are circulating on social networking sites,” the police official said.

Thailand has the highest gun ownership rate in Southeast Asia, with 15 guns per 100 people. The total number of guns in Thailand is said to be over 10 million as of 2005, and anyone can buy a gun as long as he or she has a license, which can be easily obtained.

A look at a used firearms store revealed that a Smith & Wesson M&P9 sold for about 232,000 yen, and the company’s M629 revolver pistol for about 380,000 yen. A Colt Company gun was priced at 312,000 yen. Rifle guns are also available, with the BATTLE ARMS “XIPHOS9” priced reasonably at about 100,000 yen. That is how close to home guns are. Shooting ranges where visitors can bring their own guns are crowded with Thai people on holidays.

If you go to a military facility in the suburbs, you can get the cheapest rental gun with 10 rounds of ammunition for as little as 160 baht (about 640 yen),” said a local gun enthusiast.

When we visited another gun store in the suburbs of Bangkok, the owner told us, “We have a gun store where police officers also buy guns.

When I visited another gun shop in the suburbs of Bangkok, the owner told me, “Police officers also come to our shop to buy guns. In Thailand, there are no restrictions on the guns that police officers can own, and they can buy any gun they want. If a policeman doesn’t have the money to buy a gun, he uses a battered .38-caliber revolver provided by the government.

Having the latest gun is the status of a police officer, the manager continues.

You need a permit to own a gun, and you can only have one gun per permit. However, some gun stores sell several guns to police officers with one permit. I have heard that some police officers are making money by reselling unused guns. So in Thailand, the number of permits does not match the number of guns actually sold. I can’t even imagine how many guns exist in the dark if you add to the illegal guns the bootlegged guns that can be purchased on social networking sites like the one the 14-year-old boy got his hands on. ……”

In response to the spate of shootings, Thailand is considering regulating the online sale of guns, but the timing of implementation has not yet been determined. The lesion that the Land of Smiles is facing is so serious that it is not even funny.

There is a wide selection of rifles and other items. Conditions for purchasing a gun are loose, but you cannot carry a gun without a concealed carry permit.
Inside a firearms store in the city center, handguns were displayed in a showcase as if they were accessories.
There are several shooting ranges in Thailand that will let you off the hook for carrying an illegal gun.
A young woman shoots a rifle. Customers of all ages and genders were seen at the shooting range.

From the December 22, 2023 issue of FRIDAY

  • Reporting and writing Yoshizoe Kako (Journalist)

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