A week before Loy Krathong, the Royal Thai Police (RTP) arrested 14,909 suspects in 14,339 criminal cases in a pre-festival crackdown.
Police of the Technology Crime Suppression Division recently announced the arrest of seven suspects for the online sale of firearms and bullets during a series of raids in 21 premises in 12 provinces. One of the suspects sold bullets online to the 14-year-old Siam Paragon shooter. PATTARAPONG CHATPATTARASILL
Of those, 1,320 cases were related to the illegal selling of unlicensed guns and illegally owned licensed guns, said National Police Chief Pol Gen Torsak Sukvimol.
Many cases involved the wrongful ownership of firearms. The operation aimed to prevent gun violence, such as when technical college students shoot students from rival schools.
One such incident occurred in Klong Toey on Nov 11, and another one in Dusit district a week later.
According to Pol Gen Torsak, most firearms-related crimes are linked to unlicensed guns or stolen pistols.
"We have to admit an illegal firearms problem exists in this country. Continuous suppression operations are necessary to prevent firearm-related crimes," Pol Gen Torsak said.
Stronger punishments required
The Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) is working on the issue. Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop Bhuridej, its chief, told the Bangkok Post that he had ordered the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau (CCIB) to set up a special police team to monitor the illegal sale of firearms online.
The public, even youths, can easily buy guns online, such as in the case of the Siam Paragon shooting on Oct 3 when the 14-year-old shooter purchased a modified blank gun and bullets online.
"Nowadays, people can just search for firearms on Google, make their orders and receive guns with just a few clicks. Our team will monitor not only activities related to selling and buying illegal guns online but also narcotics or other illegal items available on social media because they can lead to violent crimes," he said.
Police always conduct raids to seize illegal arms, but many illegal sales are still reported to the office.
"We want to cut access to these online guns. We aim to catch sellers before they can sell their illegal pistols," he said.
Jirabhop: Looking at sales online
Control measures are also needed for the government's welfare gun policy that permits officials to buy tax-free firearms.
There have been reports that some officials, including police, abuse the policy and make money by reselling their tax-free pistols. The Royal Thai Police have suspended numerous officers since last year.
Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop cited the case of Praween "Kamnan Nok" Chankhlai, who was behind the shooting of two Highway Police officers in Nakhon Pathom on Sept 6, as a prime example of such a violation. "I think gun ownership in Thailand, both for individuals and officials, is too loose. We need to have more gun control," added the CIB chief.
Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop suggested stronger gun control measures. "I like how strict gun control is in Singapore and Japan. They have stiff punishments. Even those found with one bullet can face a long jail sentence.
"When punishment is too soft, people are not afraid of committing crimes. We need to increase punishments for those who own illegal guns because it creates social problems," Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop.
Banning the import of blank guns
Suttipong Juljarern, permanent secretary of the Interior Ministry, said he had instructed provincial governors to tell government firearms registrars to stop issuing licences allowing people to carry guns.
The ministry also issued a regulation banning the import of blank guns and imitation firearms.
The ministry also requires blank gun owners to register with their local registrar in the provinces, such as provincial governors, district chiefs and deputy district chiefs.
The firearms registrar in Bangkok is the director-general of the Provincial Administration Department.
Suttipong: Puts hold on new licences
The ministry will work with the RTP on the suspension of gun registration in the future.
"All this is in response to the government's policies on maintaining citizen peace and security," said Mr Suttipong.
Regarding local administration measures on gun control, Mr Suttipong said many suggestions were floated during a recent meeting with administrative officials, provincial governors, district chiefs and police.
One was to set up checkpoints at busy nightspots or other crowded areas to boost people's safety.
This is part of a proactive strategy by the government to control gun violence while ensuring the safety of visitors to the country.
"It is good [for the government] to focus on crime and violence suppression," said Mr Suttipong.