Govt must get a grip on guns
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Govt must get a grip on guns

The two latest fatal armed stand-offs that occurred within a week of each other remind society once more that gun violence has become the new normal in Thailand. Equally worrying is how the government is choosing to deal with this problem.

In both incidences, the sieges ended tragically, with the two gunmen shot dead by the police after they decided to storm the houses. The first gunman was a police officer who lived in Bangkok's Sai Mai district; the second was a former forest ranger who lived in Phetchaburi.

Both shared similarities -- they reportedly had psychological problems. Yet, despite this, they had legal permits to carry their guns and furthermore had plenty of ammunition stored at their homes.

In the latest case in Phetchaburi this week, the police insisted that they strictly complied with all the rules of engagement for an armed stand-off situation by initially applying a "soft approach" that gradually intensified in line with the changing situation.

Peace was quickly restored at the two locations -- however, disturbing questions remain that beg for answers from the police regarding how they handled these particular siege situations.

In the second armed standoff, three individuals were shot dead, and three others were injured, including a police officer, allegedly by the gunman himself, who was a former temporary employee at Tap Lan national park.

One of the victims who was killed was a fourth-year college student who had recently had a quarrel with the gunman and had subsequently been pistol-whipped by him.

An alarming question that has since been raised by the student's grieving father is why his son and the two other victims were left lying on a narrow lane in front of the gunman's house on a housing estate for many hours -- from about noon up to 8pm -- without any police or rescue workers attempting to retrieve them?

In cases of doubt, as would have been the likely scenario, the three victims should have nonetheless been presumed to have still been alive and in desperate need of medical attention -- they should have been straight away sent to the nearest hospital to receive medical care or examination.

If the police's justification was to resort to force to end the siege and save innocent lives, why was no attempt or diversionary trick employed, so they could reach the victims, regardless of whether they thought they were dead or alive?

The next question concerns the country's gun policies, particularly the welfare gun programme. The scheme should not be seen or marketed as a welfare scheme in any instance as it encourages many state officials to strive to own one or several guns, not for their own personal use, but to resell at a profit.

The programme constitutes a loophole that allows guns to fall into the wrong hands. It also makes a mockery of the gun import quota system under which each gun shop is granted a quota to import only a small number of guns a year, which would make it impossible to sustain their businesses.

Ironically, the system makes the Interior Ministry, the organisation responsible for issuing gun licences, the biggest gun importer in the country.

For Thailand to be a safer place from gun-related violence, the welfare gun scheme should be scrapped completely. Gun control should also be strictly enforced to deal with illegal firearms and to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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