Easy guns bring Wild West mentality
With firearm crime on the rise and the amount of illegal locally produced and smuggled weapons growing, there are concerns that a programme giving officials discounts in the name of self-protection is worsening the situation
In recent years Thailand has been flooded with illegal firearms and the misery they cause is plain for all to see. Every day there are media reports of shootouts and homicides that begin with domestic quarrels, school rivalries and traffic accidents, and quickly escalate. Law enforcement officials say the root cause is the easy availability of guns, and this is true for teenagers as well as adults. People prefer to buy weapons outside of legal channels because they are much cheaper, and don't involve the hassle of registering the guns as required under Thai law.
UP IN ARMS: A licensed gun shop in the Wang Burapha area. Critics say gun shops aligned with a state scheme to give discounts to officials are contributing to the flood of guns in the country.
The issuance of gun permits is linked to house registration. For criminals there is the added bonus that guns bought on the black market can't be traced back to them. Some illegal firearms are cheaply produced locally by fly-by-night manufacturers, but most are foreign-made, either smuggled in, stolen or resold without registration (see box, Page 5).
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