After mall shooting, Thailand seeks long-term answers to gun violence | ET REALITY


The fatal shooting by a 14-year-old boy in a popular Bangkok shopping mall sparked harrowing soul-searching about gun culture in Thailand on Wednesday, a day after the third high-profile shooting in nearly four years killed to two people.

Thailand has one of the highest rates of gun ownership and firearm homicides in Asia, although it pales in comparison to U.S. levels. But the sight of dozens of people running for their lives in one of Bangkok’s most popular shopping malls has shaken many Thais and reignited a debate about what needs to change to avoid another similar shooting.

More broadly, many Thais, both in the government and the public, say there needs to be a long-term solution to the gun violence epidemic, which experts say is fueled by millions of guns in circulation and the weak enforcement of gun laws.

Paul Quaglia, chief executive of PQA Associates, a Bangkok-based risk assessment firm, said he would characterize Thailand’s gun regulation as “non-existent.”

“There is no systemic effort here to register weapons,” said Quaglia, a former CIA station chief. “The problem in Thailand is that the country is flooded with weapons. They are freely available and easily obtained, both licitly and illicitly.”

Of Thailand’s 7.2 million privately owned guns, only 6 million are registered, according to estimates by, which tracks guns around the world.

On Wednesday, national police chief Pol. Gen. Torsak Sukvimol said he had taken a step to address a “loophole”: In Thailand, buyers of “blank weapons,” the weapon the teenager used in the Tuesday’s shooting, they don’t need permits.

Police General Sukvimol said he has called for the immediate arrest of illegal online gun sellers and wants “blank weapons” to be classified as weapons that require the same scrutiny as regular firearms.

Many guns are sold by government officials or law enforcement agents, who are allowed to buy as many guns as they want from the government at a steep discount. As a result, a black market in firearms thrives, fueled by the smuggling arms trade between Myanmar and Thailand. Although Thailand has many gun laws, experts say, lack of enforcement can leave them ineffective.

Parit Wacharasindhu, a member of Parliament from the opposition Move Forward Party, on Wednesday called on the government to improve Thailand’s gun licensing system and end the illegal arms trade.

“Although the weapon used to commit yesterday’s incident was a modified weapon, given that Thailand has the third highest number of firearm-related deaths in Asia, this sends a clear signal that we may need to reconsider the entire security system. “gun ownership.” said Mr. Parit.

Potential gun buyers in Thailand must undergo a background check and provide a reason for ownership. But while there are restrictions on the amount of guns and ammunition a civilian can purchase, there are no limits placed on government employees.

Gun permits are available for life, unlike many other countries that impose expiration dates. Many district offices provide little follow-up to verify the identity of the original permit holder.

Tuesday’s shooting has especially unsettled Thais because of the backdrop: Siam Paragon, in the heart of downtown Bangkok, is a common shopping and meeting place for many city residents.

Previous mass shootings in Thailand – at a shopping mall in northeastern Korat in 2020 and at a daycare in the northeastern city of Nong Bua Lamphu – were national tragedies. But they also occurred in places far from cities, places that many Thais couldn’t relate to. But a tragedy at a shopping center in the capital, popular with tourists and locals, has resonated.

“This will affect a lot of people in a way that the shootings in the provinces may not have,” said Ken Mathis Lohatepanont, an independent political analyst who writes about Thai politics.

Gisele Chang, 32, a Taiwanese studying Thai in Bangkok, was in the Siam Paragon mezzanine bathroom when she heard a loud noise. At first, she thought it was a falling iron plate. Then she heard screams.

He looked into the bathroom and saw three people lying outside, covered in blood. He quickly sent a message to his colleagues to call the police. When help finally arrived, all the women in the bathroom came out crying, Ms. Chang recalled.

“We held hands and walked out together, even though they were people we didn’t know,” Ms. Chang wrote by text message. “There were Koreans, Chinese, Hong Kongers and Thais. Spending those terrifying 30 or 40 minutes in the same space and seeing them alive made me feel good.”

One of the two victims was a 34-year-old Chinese national, Zhao Jinnan, the mother of 5-year-old twin girls, according to The Southern Metropolis Daily, a Chinese newspaper that interviewed Ms. Zhao’s niece. The girls had traveled to Bangkok with their mother on vacation and were due to fly home on Wednesday.

The other victim was Ma Moe Myint, a 31-year-old Myanmar woman. She worked at a toy store and had gone to the mall to help her employer deposit some money. Her employer told Thai media that she was the family’s sole breadwinner.

Although their pace has accelerated in recent years, mass shootings remain rare in Thailand. After previous shootings, there were many discussions about what to do with the weapons. Committees were formed and, in the most recent case, drugs were blamed. Still, no large-scale reforms have been carried out.

“Since it has already happened three times in such a short time, we as a society need to re-evaluate whether this is more of a systematic problem than just isolated and unfortunate incidents,” said Chanatip Tatiyakaroonwong, a Bangkok resident. Human rights researcher at Amnesty International.

Chanyapatch Wongwiwat, 30 years old, digital media planner, said she ran “as fast as she could” from Siam Paragon after her colleague called her on Tuesday to tell her there was a shooter downstairs.

“I never expected this to happen in Bangkok, in the city centre, where security is quite tight,” Ms Chanyapatch said. Although she said she had never thought about gun laws before, she now says there should be stricter limits.

“I think we need more gun control and stricter security measures in some places,” he said.

Jane Oscar, 35, a tourist from Jakarta, said she was in a boutique in Siam Paragon when she saw people running. She approached a store employee to ask what was happening when she heard the gunshots. “It was very loud and very clear,” she said.

“I don’t think I’m the only person who still feels this, but PTSD feels very real,” she said. “Until now the shots continue to ring out.”

Siyi Zhao contributed reporting from Seoul, and Ryn Jirenuwat contributed reporting from Bangkok.

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