Thailand's troubling gun murders

Thailand's troubling gun murders

With murder rate equal to US & three times Cambodia, Thailand's 6.1 million registered firearms used in never-ending stream of murder cases with loss-of-face & business disputes two main motives.

With 6.1 million registered firearms in Thailand, newspapers carry a never-ending series of high-profile gun-related murders.


A bullet and a body: Thailand's troubling gun murders

AFP News agency

Rungrat Rungsuwan was manning her small shop selling trinkets on a main tourist drag on the island of Koh Samui when she heard a series of loud bangs.

"At first I thought they were firecrackers," she told AFP as tourists in flip-flops and singlets filed past her storefront in the resort island's Fisherman's Village. "But once people realised it was gunfire everyone panicked and started running. Some people came into my shop to hide."

It was early March and just metres away influential local businessman Panas Khao-uthai lay dead, six bullets fired into his body at close range by two assassins who calmly unloaded their pistols in broad daylight. 

For the holidaymakers forced to dive for cover that evening, the murder --- which police say was over a commercial dispute -- was a glimpse into a reality familiar to locals: the country's deadly enthusiasm for guns.

Police remove the body of a man shot on a Bangkok shuttle bus in July, allegedly because he criticised the driver’s driving skills. (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)


Renowned to outsiders for its laid-back, welcoming vibe, Thailand is also a country awash with firearms where disputes are all too frequently settled with a bullet and a body.

Barely a week goes by without a new headline-grabbing killing, usually stemming from a humiliation -- or a loss of face -- over a personal or business dispute

In one recent case, a woman was shot in the neck by an angry lover in a mall, while another saw a man gunned down outside his Bangkok apartment block after arguing with a security guard.

In a third, a bus driver shot a passenger in the chest because his victim had repeatedly criticised his road skills.

As one western police officer stationed at an embassy in Bangkok told AFP: "There is a real culture of guns in Thailand, it's a military-style culture, a place of uniforms and male power." 

Assessing the precise fallout of the kingdom's enthusiasm for weaponry is difficult.

The Thai government does not provide a specific breakdown for annual gun murders outside of the country's deep south, where a local Muslim insurgency has killed more than 6,400 in the last decade.

But the website, an online database of global gun statistics run by the University of Sydney's School of Public Health, believes Thailand has one of the highest gun homicide rates in Asia.

It estimates 3.48 murders per 100,000 people in Thailand, three times the rate of neighbouring Cambodia and on par with the United States.

What is much clearer is the sheer number of weapons in civilian hands.

Police show weapons seized in raids on 26 locations owned by influential figures on Koh Samui following the early March killing of prominent local businessman Panas Khao-uthai. (Photo by Wassayos Ngamkam)


According to the Interior Ministry, there are 6.1 million registered firearms in Thailand, a country with 67 million people. puts the total number of firearms at closer to 10 million, once the thriving black market trade is counted.

As the US State Department's Bureau for Diplomatic Security wrote in its safety report for overseas staff: "Thailand has a fervent gun culture on par with the United States and has become a world leader in firearms-related homicides."

But while the US has long experienced a passionate debate on gun control, Thailand largely greets the human toll of its firearms obsession with a collective shrug.

"No one has taken responsibility, no one has really taken up the issue," lamented Kasit Piromya, a former foreign minister who believes tighter gun controls are needed, as well as an amnesty for illegal weapons.


The lack of outrage shown over gun murders, Mr. Kasit believes is down to the concept of karma

"When you die, you die. It's acceptance and resignation. We take death calmly as part of life," said Mr Kasit, who owns two registered pistols.

On paper, Thailand has strict gun controls but the law is easily circumnavigated.

The sheer availability of weaponry concerns Pol Col Akaradet Pimolsri, the head of Thailand's police commando unit, each time his officers hit the streets.

"I want every gun to be registered," Pol Col Akaradet of the elite Crime Suppression Division, told AFP at the unit's Bangkok headquarters.

A key step would be for the government to set up a database containing the "ballistic fingerprints" of all over the counter weapons.


In late July, AFP accompanied Pol Col Akaradet and 200 of his commandos on a dawn raid in Uthai Thani, a central province renowned for its crime syndicates

Their target were two suspects in a 2011 gun murder in which a policeman was killed. His officers took no chances, arming themselves with assault rifles, shotguns and body armour.

But by the time the convoy reached a series of mansions on the outskirts of town there was no sign of the main suspects -- although 20 guns, ammunition and bullet proof vests were seized.

The killers are still on the loose.

Back on Koh amui, an island where tourism is a crucial mainstay of the economy, police also responded forcefully to the killing of the local businessman Panas, arresting the alleged gunmen and conducting a series of raids that netted almost 100 weapons, Akaradet said.

At the streetside restaurant where the killing took place, the tables are filled once more with tourists oblivious to the violence that occurred there three months ago.

Laurent Haroutinian, the French manager of the restaurant where the shooting took place, said they reopened after just two days.

"It was the first time I saw anything like this," he said. "And I hope it is the last"

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  • alleged: claimed to be true although not yet proven; claimed to have done something wrong but not yet proven - ที่ถูกกล่าวหา
  • allegedly: claimed to have done something wrong, but not yet proven - ที่กล่าวหา
  • ammunition: bullets, bombs, etc that can be fired from a weapon - อาวุธยุทธภัณฑ์, ลูกกระสุน
  • amnesty: a situation in which a government agrees not to punish people who have committed a crime - การนิรโทษกรรม
  • annual: happening every year - ทุกๆปีด, ประจำปี
  • argue: to speak angrily to somebody because you disagree with them; to give reasons why you think that something is right/wrong, true/not true, etc, especially to persuade people that you are right - โต้เถียง, โต้แย้ง, เถียง, อ้างเหตุผล
  • arm: use weapons - ติดอาวุธ
  • armour: special clothing that soldiers wear to protect their bodies while fighting - เสื้อเกราะ,เกราะป้องกัน
  • assassin: a hired killer; a person hired to kill with a gun; a hitman - มือปืน
  • assault rifle: an automatic rifle in the magazine (section of gun that holds bullets - ที่ใส่กระสุน) can be taken off an replaced
  • assess (verb): to carefully consider a situation, person, or problem in order to make a judgment - ประเมิณ, ประเมิณสถานการณ์
  • at close range: nearby -
  • availability: that you can get, buy or find - การหาได้ง่าย,การหามาได้
  • awash: covered with water - จุ่มอยู่ใต้น้ำ
  • ballistic: related to the movement of objects moving through the air - เกี่ยวกับการเคลื่อนที่ของวัตถุในอากาศ  (วิธีกระสุน)
  • bang: a sudden loud noise - เสียงดังมาก, เสียงระเบิด, เสียงปัง
  • barely: only just; almost not - เกือบจะไม่
  • black market (noun): an illegal form of trade in which foreign money, or goods that are difficult to obtain, are bought and sold - ตลาดมืด
  • body: a group of people who work or act together, often for an official purpose, or who are connected in some other way - กลุ่มคน, นิติบุคคล
  • breakdown (noun): detailed information that you get by studying a set of figures or a collection of data - การวิเคราะห์, การแบ่งออกเป็นส่วน, e.g., การแบ่งตามอายุ
  • bullet: a small, metal object that is shot from a gun - กระสุนปืน
  • bullet proof: bullets cannot damage or pierce -
  • calmly: in a relaxed way without anxiety - อย่างใจเย็น, อย่างไม่ตื่นเต้น, อย่างสงบ
  • case: a matter that is being officially investigated, especially by the police - คดี
  • chest: the upper front part of the body of humans and some animals, between the stomach and the neck, containing the heart and lungs - หน้าอก
  • circumnavigate: to go completely around something - เคลื่อนไปรอบๆ
  • civilian: someone who does not belong to the armed forces or the police - พลเรือน
  • clearer: easier to see and understand ชัดเจน -
  • collective: involving all the members of a group - โดยรวม ทั้งคณะ (การตัดสินชี้ขาดจากศาล)
  • commando: a soldier trained to attack in areas controlled by an enemy - สมาชิกของหน่วยจู่โจม
  • commercial: for business purposes - เกี่ยวกับการค้า
  • concept: a principle or idea - ความคิด
  • concern: to cause to worry - ทำให้กังวล
  • conduct: to carry out — - ดำเนิน
  • control: To exercise restraining or governing influence over; to check; to counteract; to restrain; to regulate; to govern; to overpower - จัดการ, ควบคุม
  • convoy: a group of vehicles (or ships) travelling together - ขบวนรถ, ขบวนเรือ
  • cover (noun): a place that provides shelter from bad weather or protection from an attack - ที่ปลอดภั, ที่หลบ
  • crime: an illegal activity or action - อาชญากรรม
  • Crime Suppression Division (CSD): a national police department responsible for conducting most of the technical investigations of criminal offenses - กองบังคับการปราบปราม
  • criticised: receiving words of disapproval over something that you have supposedly done wrong - ถูกวิจารณ์, โดนว่า
  • crucial (adj): extremely important because it effects the result of something - สำคัญยิ่ง
  • culture (noun): the customs and beliefs, art, way of life and social organization of a particular country or group - วัฒนธรรม
  • database: a large amount of information stored in a computer in an organised way - ฐานข้อมูล
  • dawn: the beginning of the day, when it begins to get light - รุ่งอรุณ, เช้าตรู่
  • deadly (adj): causing or likely to cause death - เป็นอันตรายถึงตายได้
  • debate: a discussion in which people or groups state different opinions about a subject - การอภิปราย, การโต้วาที, การถกเถียง
  • decade: a period of ten years - ทศวรรษ
  • dispute: a serious disagreement - ข้อโต้แย้ง
  • dispute: a serious disagreement - การโต้เถียง, ความขัดแย้ง
  • dive: to move or jump quickly in a particular direction, especially to avoid something, to try to catch a ball, etc -
  • down to: explained by..., because of ... -
  • drag: a main street where many people go -
  • embassy: a building where a group of officials work who represent their government in a foreign country - สถานทูต
  • enthusiasm: the feeling of being very interested in something or excited by it - ความกระตือรือร้น
  • estimate: an amount that you guess or calculate using the information available - ประมาณการ
  • experienced (adj): having knowledge as a result of doing something for a long time, or having had a lot of different experiences - ซึ่งมีประสบการณ์, ชำนาญ
  • fallout: the unpleasant effects of something that has happened - ผลร้ายที่ตามมา
  • familiar: well known to you, or easily recognised by you - คุ้นเคย
  • fervent: having or showing very strong and sincere feelings about something - ซึ่งแสดงความรู้สึกอย่างมาก, รุนแรง, เร่าร้อน
  • filed past: when people walk past, one after the other -
  • fire: to shoot a weapon - ยิง
  • firearms: guns - อาวุธปืน
  • firecracker: a kind of firework that makes a lot of loud noise when it explodes - ประทัด
  • flip-flops: a pair of sandals (= open shoe) that has a piece of leather, etc. that goes between the big toe and the toe next to it on each shoe - รองเท้าแตะ
  • foreign minister: the minister in charge of maintaining relations with other countries and looking after the interests of its citizens living abroad who heads the Foreign Ministry or - รัฐมนตรีว่าการต่างประเทศ
  • frequently: happening often - บ่อยๆ
  • glimpse (noun): when you see something or someone for a very short time - การเหลือบดู, การชำเลือง, การชายตามอง
  • grab: to take or hold somebody/something with your hand suddenly, firmly or roughly - จับ,ฉวย,คว้า,แย่ง
  • greet: to say hello to somebody or to welcome them - ต้อนรับ, ทักทาย
  • gun control: government policies that control gun ownership and use -
  • gunfire: the shooting of a gun at something -
  • gunmen: a hired killer; a person hired to kill with a gun; a hitman - มือปืน
  • headline: the title of a newspaper story that is printed in large letters - ข่าวพาดหัว
  • headquarters: the place where an organisation or company has its main offices - กองบัญชาการ
  • hide: to cover something so that it cannot be seen; to keep something secret - ซ่อน, ซุกซ่อน, ปกปิด
  • homicide (noun): murder; the crime of killing somebody deliberately - ฆาตกรรม
  • humiliation (noun): a feeling of being ashamed or stupid and having lost the respect of other people; the act of making somebody feel like this - การทำให้ขายหน้า, ความลดเกียรติ
  • illegal: against the law - ผิดกฎหมาย, นอกกฎหมาย
  • influential: of a person or group who has the power to affect a situation - มีอิทธิพล
  • influential figure: a person who has the power to affect a situation, especially in a bad way - ผู้มีอิทธิพล
  • insurgency: an attempt by a group of people to take control of their country or the area where they live by force - การจลาจล
  • issue: a problem that needs to be considered - ประเด็น
  • karma: a belief in Hinduism and Buddhism that the way in which you behaved in past lives affects your present life, and the way in which you behave in this life will affect your future lives - กรรม
  • key: very important - ที่สำคัญ
  • lack of: when there is not enough of something - ขาด
  • laid-back (adj): calm and relaxed; seeming not to worry about anything - สบายๆ, รู้สึกสบายผ่อนคลาย
  • largely (adverb): mostly -
  • local: in or related to the area that you live, or to the particular area that you are talking about - ท้องถิ่น
  • locals: people who live in a particular place - ชาวบ้าน
  • mainstay: the most important part of something, providing support for everything else - หลักสำคัญ
  • male: being a man or a boy - ผู้ชาย
  • manning: being responsible for working at a particular place or operate a particular piece of equipment - ประจำที่
  • mansion: a large house, especially a beautiful one - คฤหาสน์
  • murder (noun): the crime of intentionally killing a person - ฆาตกรรม
  • neck: the part of the body between the head and the shoulders - ลำคอ (อวัยวะ), คอ
  • neighbour: someone (or towns, cities, countries) who lives or is located near you - เพื่อนบ้าน
  • neighbouring: located or living near or next to a place or person - ติดกัน, ที่อยู่ใกล้เคียง, ที่ตั้งอยู่ใกล้เคียง
  • obsession (noun): the one thing that a person thinks about all the time, a preoccupation - การครอบงำจิตใจ, การฝังแน่นอยู่ในจิตใจ
  • on par with: equal to -
  • on the loose (idiom): free; not yet caught -
  • online: controlled by or connected to a computer or to the Internet - ออนไลน์, การเชื่อมต่อผ่านระบบเครือข่ายทางคอมพิวเตอร์
  • outrage: extreme anger - ความโกรธอย่างรุนแรง
  • outsider: someone who does not belong to a particular group or organization - บุคคลภายนอก
  • outskirts: the areas at the edge of a city - ชานเมือง
  • over the counter (adj.): when a drug can be bought by a patient without permission or a "prescription" from a doctor -
  • overseas: in another country - ต่างประเทศ
  • panicked: anxious about something; feeling or showing panic - ตกใจ
  • passenger: someone who travels in a motor vehicle, aircraft, train, or ship but is not the driver or one of the people who works on it - ผู้โดยสาร
  • passionate: having a strong enthusiasm or interest in something - กระตือรือร้น, ซาบซึ้ง, ดูดดื่ม
  • personal: your own; not belonging to or connected with anyone else - เป็นส่วนตัว
  • pistol: a small gun that you hold in one hand - ปืนพก,ปืนสั้น
  • power (noun): political control of a country or an area; having a lot of influence and authority to control people and situations - อำนาจ
  • precise: exact and accurate - แน่นอน, ถูกต้อง, เที่ยงตรง
  • prominent: important and well known - สำคัญ, มีชื่อเสียง, เด่น
  • province: one of many divisions of the government of a country into smaller parts - จังหวัด
  • public health (noun): the health of all the people in a country, city or community and their health issues; also the name of a government department - การสาธารณสุข
  • raid: to forcefully and suddenly enter a place to catch criminals or to search for something like drugs - ใช้กำลังเข้าค้นสถานที่หรือ จับกุมคนร้าย
  • raid: to use force to enter a place suddenly in order to arrest people or search for something such as illegal weapons or drugs - บุกเข้าจับ, เข้าตรวจค้น
  • rate: an amount of money that is paid or charged - ราคา, อัตรา
  • realise (verb): to know about - ตระหนัก  รู้
  • reality: what is actually happening - ความเป็นจริง
  • recent: happening or starting a short time ago - เร็วๆ นี้
  • registered (adj): to be on an official list; to be on an official list of names of people who are allowed to do something, e.g., vote, study, sell something, stay in a hotel etc - ซึ่งลงทะเบียนไว้
  • related (adj): connected with something/somebody; referring to something/somebody - เชื่อมโยงกับ
  • renowned (adj): famous and admired for a special quality, skill or achievement - ที่มีชื่อเสียง
  • repeatedly: happening, said or done many times - อย่างซ้ำๆ
  • resignation (noun): patient willingness to accept a difficult or unpleasant situation that you cannot change - การยอมรับสภาพ, การยอมจำนน
  • security guard (noun): a person who checks people's bags or watches over a building at night to make things safe - ยาม, คนเฝ้าสถานที่ หรือระวังเหตุการณ์ตามกำหนดเวลา; ผู้เฝ้าประตู, บุคคลที่คอยมุ่งเอาใจใส่หรือดูแลการเข้า-ออกของผู้คนอยู่ที่ประตู
  • seize (verb): to take something using force - ยึด, จับกุม
  • set up: to create something or start it - ตั้งขึ้น
  • settle: to end a dispute or disagreement, in this case, forcefully - ขจัดให้เสร็จสิ้น, จัดการ
  • sheer: used to emphasise the size, degree or amount of something - เต็มที่, ที่สุด, ทีเดียว
  • shot (noun): shooting a gun one time - การยิง
  • shotgun (noun): gun that fires a lot of small metal bullets (called shot) and is used especially for shooting birds or animals - ปืนลูกซอง
  • shrug: to raise your shoulders and then drop them to show that you do not know or care about something or think that it is important - ยักไหล่เพื่อแสดงความไม่สนใจหรือไม่ทราบ
  • sign: a piece of evidence that something is happening or that something exists - ร่องรอย
  • singlet: a very short and skimpy shirt, such as a "tank top" without sleeves, that you might wear to the beach -
  • skill: the ability to do something well, usually as a result of experience and training - ฝีมือ, ทักษะ
  • specific: detailed and exact - โดยเฉพาะ, เฉพาะเจาะจง
  • staff: workers employed by a person or organisation considered as a group - คณะผู้ทำงาน, คนงาน
  • station: to cause someone to be in a particular place to do a job - ตั้งประจำ
  • statistics: a collection of information shown in numbers - วิชาสถิติ
  • stem from: to be caused by - เกิดจาก
  • stemming from: being caused by - เกิดจาก
  • step: one of a series of actions that you do in order to achieve a particular aim - ขั้นตอน
  • strict: demanding that rules are obeyed; very careful and exact - เข้มงวด
  • suspect: a person who is thought to have committed a crime - ผู้ต้องสงสัย
  • syndicate: a group of people or companies who work together and help each other in order to achieve a particular aim - สมาคม, องค์การ, สหการ , การรวมกลุ่มเป็นสมาคม
  • take responsibility: to say or admit you are the cause of something, usually something bad (and, often, to do what needs to be done to correct the situation) - แสดงความรับผิดชอบ
  • target (noun): an object, person, business, building, area, etc., that someone intends to attack, deal with or find - เป้าหมาย
  • thriving: very successful - ประสบความสำเร็จอย่างสูง
  • thumbprint: the mark made by the pattern of lines on the top of a person's thumb, thumb the short thick finger at the side of the hand - นิ้วหัวแม่มือ
  • toll: the number of deaths and injuries caused by a disaster, accident, disease, etc. - การสูญเสีย
  • took no chances: prepared for everything, so nothing goes wrong -
  • trade: the buying and selling of goods and services - การค้าขาย
  • trinket: small things such as decoration that a person keeps - สิ่งประดับเล็กน้อย, สิ่งเล็กน้อย, เครื่องเพชรพลอยเล็ก ๆ น้อย ๆ ,เครื่องประดับเล็ก ๆ น้อย ๆ , ของกระจุกกระจิก
  • uniform: the special set of clothes worn by all members of an organisation or a group at work, or by children at school - เครื่องแบบ
  • unit: a part of a company or organisation that carries out a particular function; a group of people who work or live together, especially for a particular purpose - หน่วย,กอง,กลุ่ม
  • unload (verb): to get rid of something that you do not want to keep - เอาออก
  • vest: a sleeve-less covering for the top part of your body -
  • vibe: feeling - อารมณ์ความรู้สึกที่มีต่อคน สิ่งของ สถาน
  • victim: someone who has been affected by a bad situation, such as a disaster, illness or an accident - เหยื่อผู้เคราะห์ร้าย
  • weapon: an object such as a knife, gun, bomb, etc. that is used for fighting or attacking somebody - อาวุธ
  • weaponry (noun): all the weapons of a particular type or belonging to a particular country or group - อาวุธ, อาวุธยุทโธปกรณ์, สรรพวุธ
  • welcome: to be pleased to receive or accept something - รับด้วยความยินดี
  • Western: countries such as the US, Europe and Australia -
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