A mass shooting is not common in Thailand, but every time it happened and ended with casualties, it put a stain on the kingdom and raised questions on why there is no strict gun control in the land of smiles.
The shooting at Siam Paragon, one of the largest and busiest shopping malls in Thailand, on October 3rd left with two people being killed. The gunman is a 14-year-old boy who modified a gun that is made to fire blank to be able to fire a live round. He was restrained at the scene.
He was convicted with five criminal counts, including premeditated murder, attempted murder, possession of a gun without license, possession of guns in a crowded area and use of a firearm without permission. The boy was jailed in which the police claimed he has mental illness.
In a press conference following the incident, the government official promised to tighten security measures and review gun laws, though the official stated that this was an isolated incident.
Just last year, the kingdom mourned the death of 36 people of which 22 were children when a former policeman went on a killing spree with a knife and gun at a child care in north-eastern Nong Bua Lamphu province.
In 2020, a soldier went on a rampage by penetrating the armory in north-eastern Nakhon Ratchasima to steal assault weapons. He then went to a Terminal 21 shopping center and killed a total of 30 people with 58 injured.
According to gunpolicy.org, civilians in Thailand held more than 7.2 million guns in 2021 of which 1.2 million were unregistered and illicit.
Meanwhile, wisevoter.com ranks Thailand at 44 in the world with the most guns in possession in 2023. Thailand has a Gun Ownership Rate at 15.1 per 100, which is an estimated number of civilian firearm possessions per 100 persons. Thailand also has a Gun Death Rate at 3.11 per 100,000 people.
The world’s number one with most possession is of course the United States of America with Gun Ownership Rate at 120.5 per 100, while the Gun Death Rate is at 4.12 per 100,000 (world’s 32nd place).
The global average of Gun Ownership Rate is 7 per 100 and the Gun Death Rate is 2.99 per 100,000. This shows that Thailand is above all the two categories.
According to gunpolicy.org, Cambodia and Vietnam have full firearm control ranges, while Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Timor-Leste, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand are restrictive. However, a gun crime in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand could lead to the death penalty.
The law in Thailand still has light sentence for juveniles who break the law no matter how severe the case is. A kid under the age of 15 has no obligation from the consequence other than detention. This issue has raised public criticism many times in the past due to some cases that were so vile that the public could not accept the outcome.
Some also turn their focus on the parents and question the upbringing of the kid.
In the U.S. the parents of a mass-shooting kid at Oxford High School will stand trial for involuntary manslaughter. Though not directly involved in the shooting, evidence shows that both parents know their son was troubled and too young to own a gun, but buying him one anyway.
This case is the first time in the U.S. that parents of a teenage school shooter have been charged for involvement in their kid’s alleged crimes. It is seen by some as a litmus test on whether parents should be held accountable for the crime of mass shooting as well.
The tragic incident no doubt raises concerns over security in Thailand and also lowered tourist confidence as one of the casualties is a Chinese tourist, which is Thailand’s main focus on the attempt to revive its tourism from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The reforming of gun laws has yet to be revealed, but the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DES) and the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) has announced that they will introduce a cell broadcast, a method of sending messages to multiple mobile telephone users in a defined area at the same time. Cell broadcast could send a message faster than an SMS without the requirement of a phone number, which can be used as an alert at critical moments.
The Ministry of Tourism and Sports stated that the remedial measures are rolling and the government is implementing three new measures to ensure the safety of people in the country. The first measure is to strengthen police surveillance at crowded places. The second measure is to close websites that sell imitate weapons, such as a blank gun, and also close YouTube videos that teach gun modification. Meanwhile, individuals must have a license to import such equipment. The last measure is the cell broadcast to send alerts in the danger areas.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand Anutin Charnvirakul, made several proposals such as banning the import of fake guns, license-registered a BB gun and prohibiting people under the age of 20 from entering a shooting range.
It remains to be seen whether these measures and actions from the government will be able to revive the economy. Thailand was doing quite well for its recovery in tourism, being able to record more than 20 million arrivals in the first 9 months, compared to a record of nearly 40 million in pre-Covid year. The government and some private firms expected the number to reach the pre-Covid level next year the earliest or 2025 the latest.
Now that there is a mass shooting, it could derail the recovery of Chinese tourists during the Golden Week and upcoming months.
In 2018 after the boating accident with Chinese tourists in Phuket, the number of Chinese tourists dropped significantly for several months, causing the government to implement a policy of waiving visa-on-arrival fees to revive the tourism industry.
Top analytic firms in Thailand such as Krungsri Capital Securities, Kasikorn Securities, Asia Plus Securities and Pi Securities all saw short-term negative impact on the Thai tourism industry.
Now it is up to the government as the face of the country to boost morale and confidence for Thais and foreign tourists with a strong commitment on the change of gun laws.