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Friendly Thailand stares down the barrel of rising gun crime

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BANGKOK (Reuters) - Twenty schoolchildren surround a city bus in central Bangkok. Some get on to confront a 16-year-old from a rival school and, within moments, he is shot dead.

Similar altercations have become a focus of public attention, with shootings affecting seemingly ordinary folk.

In one incident at a busy intersection, a computer repairman shot dead two people and took a third hostage. Witnesses said it resembled a scene from a Hollywood blockbuster.

A tourist haven and regional base for multinational companies, Thailand has the highest number of guns in civilian hands in Southeast Asia -- almost four times more than the Philippines, a country notorious for violent gun crime.

Some blame the rise in gun crime on political instability that has gripped Thailand since a 2006 coup that removed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Unrest culminated in a two-month stand-off in 2010 between government troops and "red shirt" protesters backing Thaksin and clashes that killed 91 people.

Others say that the seeming impunity enjoyed by the wealthy has prompted some to take the law into their own hands.

"Thailand has become a Wild West movie," says politician Chuwit Kamolvisit, a former massage-parlor tycoon who says he used to pay off local police to run his seedy businesses. "People pull out their guns at a moment's notice."

Chuwit never owned a gun before this year. He now has three.

Escalating gun crime could put off companies looking to set up in a country that prides itself on its friendly image as the "Land of Smiles" and is recovering from devastating 2011 floods.

It could also further dent the idyllic reputation, already hit by crime directed against foreign visitors, that will draw some 20 million tourists this year, a mainstay of the economy.

Recent incidents include a senator who fatally shot his ex-wife over Sunday dinner, a nightclub shooting spree that left five dead, a Gangnam Style dance-off between rival gangs --inspired by the popular Korean song -- that degenerated into a shootout and 10,000 bullets found at an apartment owned by a former deputy provincial governor.

All this underscores a growing sense of lawlessness since the 2006 coup. Gun crime in Bangkok has more than doubled and the new police chief, described by a deputy prime minister as a "thug-catching type", has vowed to take weapons off the streets.

Thailand has the highest gun murder rate in Asia, according to http://www.gunpolicy.org, a site hosted by the University of Sydney's School of Public Health in Australia.

There were 5.3 murders by firearms per 100,000 people in Thailand in 2011, compared to 0.2 in the Philippines, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported.

"DIRTY DEALINGS"

Six years of confrontation pitted the yellow-clad, royalist People's Alliance for Democracy against the "red shirts", the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, broadly loyal to Thaksin and his sister, current Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

"Years of political upheaval have encouraged criminal activity because dirty dealings are easier to hide when the focus is on politics and not crime," says Chankhanit Suriyamanee of Bangkok's Mahidol University.

Political appointments bring fresh pledges to tackle crime but these are often shortlived, says Chankhanit.

Under Thai law, people under 20 cannot own a gun and strict background checks must be conducted before licenses are issued.

Despite this, the number of young people carrying firearms has increased 32 percent over the last nine years, says Thailand's Justice Ministry.

Nestled among the lanes and alleys in Bangkok's bustling Chinatown is the Old Siam Plaza. Around it, some 80 gun shops operate legally -- some advertise guns with their serial numbers scratched off.

Officials, police say, are part of the problem.

All Thai government employees are entitled to buy guns at a discount. Some officials declare the weapon lost and sell it on the black market for up to the equivalent of $2,600, says police chief Khamronwit.

Others accept bribes to grant licenses quickly, says Chuwit.

According to Interior Ministry records, 6.2 million licenses have been issued in a country with a population of 69 million.

Over 1,100 km (700 miles) away from Bangkok, in the country's three southernmost provinces bordering Malaysia, a Muslim insurgency that reignited in 2004 brought with it raids by suspected insurgents on army weapons depots.

Police say the raids play a small part in the plethora of weapons flooding the domestic market.

"Guns are coming through all of Thailand's borders to the north, east and west of the country," said Supisan Pakdinarunat, Commander of Thailand's Crime Suppression Division.

In October, Malaysia's home minister blamed increased gun use in his country on smuggling across the Thai border.

Carrying guns in public can land offenders with a 10-year prison sentence. But police say punishments are rarely enforced.

Politician Chuwit blamed an ingrained culture of taking the law into your own hands.

"If a man can't wear a uniform, having a gun is the next best thing," he said.

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-10-21/news/sns-rt-us-thailand-gunsbre89k0ge-20121021_1_gun-crime-thailand-prime-minister-yingluck-shinawatra

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Is this a kind of "United-Stateisation" of Thailand? I mean, how can it be that you are entitled to buy a gun but you are not allowed to privately own a chain saw (at least I was told so by a friend)???

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Is this a kind of "United-Stateisation" of Thailand? I mean, how can it be that you are entitled to buy a gun but you are not allowed to privately own a chain saw (at least I was told so by a friend)???

Chain saws don't kill people. People kill people :-)

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Is this a kind of "United-Stateisation" of Thailand?

I hate admitting this, but...

I was thinking the same thing as kaunitz. Shootings in the US have become so commonplace that they barely make the news anymore. Right before I left, two murders by gun occurred in "friendly" parts of Boston. The last one was a student who was found in the Charles River with cinder blocks chained to his legs.

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I hate admitting this, but...

I was thinking the same thing as kaunitz. Shootings in the US have become so commonplace that they barely make the news anymore. Right before I left, two murders by gun occurred in "friendly" parts of Boston. The last one was a student who was found in the Charles River with cinder blocks chained to his legs.

Please don't fall for the anti-gun law Euro-babble. Do you really think that someone who was found in a river with cinder blocks chained to his legs wouldn't have been killed by some other means? That's organized crime shit. They're in every country in the world.

I have never owned a gun. I'm marksman qualified with the M16 and am deadly accurate with a hand gun but that was in the military. I've never felt a reason to own a gun as a civilian. And if I did, I probably wouldn't even keep it in the house. Maybe at a gun club or at the firing range but I don't like guns in the home.

That being said, I believe people should have the right to own reasonable weapons. An M16 or AK47 is not a reasonable weapon. But there are a lot of reasonable weapons. What about farmers in the Mid-West who have coyotes hunting their cattle? What about a shotgun owned by a 8o year old lady on her plot of land 50 miles from her nearest neighbor?

The vast majority of gun deaths involve illegal weapons. In fact, Washington DC has some of the country's strictest gun control laws but has one of the highest gun related death rates in the nation.

Out of a country of 300,000,000 people, 12,000 are estimated to die every year from guns. 35,000 people die each year from car accidents.

Yet, we don't advocate banning vehicles because they could lead to deaths.

Interestingly, I did not include suicides in the 12,000 number above. Suicides by gun are about 16,000 (56% of all gun related deaths).

I guess the point is that guns can and are responsibly owned by millions of people. The problem tends to be with illegal weapons which gun laws don't address.

The one point I do side with gun control people on is that the NRA is insane. While I may believe in people's rights to have weapons, they should also be diligent in keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them. In their zeal to protect the right to own weapons, they pretty much open the floodgates for illegally owned weapons which end up doing most of the damage.

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Please don't fall for the anti-gun law Euro-babble. Do you really think that someone who was found in a river with cinder blocks chained to his legs wouldn't have been killed by some other means? That's organized crime ****. They're in every country in the world.

I have never owned a gun. I'm marksman qualified with the M16 and am deadly accurate with a hand gun but that was in the military. I've never felt a reason to own a gun as a civilian. And if I did, I probably wouldn't even keep it in the house. Maybe at a gun club or at the firing range but I don't like guns in the home.

That being said, I believe people should have the right to own reasonable weapons. An M16 or AK47 is not a reasonable weapon. But there are a lot of reasonable weapons. What about farmers in the Mid-West who have coyotes hunting their cattle? What about a shotgun owned by a 8o year old lady on her plot of land 50 miles from her nearest neighbor?

The vast majority of gun deaths involve illegal weapons. In fact, Washington DC has some of the country's strictest gun control laws but has one of the highest gun related death rates in the nation.

Out of a country of 300,000,000 people, 12,000 are estimated to die every year from guns. 35,000 people die each year from car accidents.

Yet, we don't advocate banning vehicles because they could lead to deaths.

Interestingly, I did not include suicides in the 12,000 number above. Suicides by gun are about 16,000 (56% of all gun related deaths).

I guess the point is that guns can and are responsibly owned by millions of people. The problem tends to be with illegal weapons which gun laws don't address.

The one point I do side with gun control people on is that the NRA is insane. While I may believe in people's rights to have weapons, they should also be diligent in keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them. In their zeal to protect the right to own weapons, they pretty much open the floodgates for illegally owned weapons which end up doing most of the damage.

Actually, I did not want to bash on Thai or US laws on firearms. I just wanted to show that there is a strange discrepancy concerning laws (well, not only in Thailand, I think that in nearly every country you can find things like this). I mean, as a private person, why is it possible (even if difficult) to legally obtain a firearm whereas it is impossible to legally obtain a chain saw (which would be of great use e.g. for farmers)? I can understand that private persons can legally buy a gun (hunters etc.), but a pistol? Or is it that you may buy a pistol in order to defend yourself against a person having an illegal firearm :twisted::confused::rolleyes:?

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Actually, I did not want to bash on Thai or US laws on firearms. I just wanted to show that there is a strange discrepancy concerning laws (well, not only in Thailand, I think that in nearly every country you can find things like this). I mean, as a private person, why is it possible (even if difficult) to legally obtain a firearm whereas it is impossible to legally obtain a chain saw (which would be of great use e.g. for farmers)? I can understand that private persons can legally buy a gun (hunters etc.), but a pistol? Or is it that you may buy a pistol in order to defend yourself against a person having an illegal firearm :twisted::confused::rolleyes:?

It's not just laws about weapons. Why did crack cocaine carry a jail sentence 10x as harsh as powder cocaine?

People create laws to suit their interests. Obviously politicians feel the need to obtain firearms outweighs the dangers while chainsaws don't LOL

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The last one was a student who was found in the Charles River with cinder blocks chained to his legs.

Exactly.

And if that student had been allowed to own a chainsaw, he could have cut his feet off and swum to safety.

(Apart from the fact he'd been shot dead first)

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It's not just laws about weapons. Why did crack cocaine carry a jail sentence 10x as harsh as powder cocaine?

Because governments don't have a frikking clue about drugs and never listen to their own experts so, when they made that law, they went along with the myth that crack is 10 times more addictive than powder cocaine!

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Because governments don't have a frikking clue about drugs and never listen to their own experts so, when they made that law, they went along with the myth that crack is 10 times more addictive than powder cocaine!

Maybe not the scientific approach. But if you look at their decisions, they have to have lots of practical experience with drugs....

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Maybe not the scientific approach. But if you look at their decisions, they have to have lots of practical experience with drugs....

yes taking too many lol.

US and UK governments don't have a clue when it comes to drug policies. Look at US; marijuana being made illegal was an economic decision for the millionaires, not a health decision

Thank goodness there are progressive governments out there like Switzerland and Portugal

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Here in California, marijuana is semi-legal, but not recognized federally. Many northern communities thrive on the cash crop and have elaborate financial arrangements between growers and loaned money. If the feds roll a crop, the grower is screwed in more ways than one. The irony is, if you are in Arizona, you can carry legally any pistol you want, but possesion of even a gram of marijuana is a bust. In Ca, you can have an ounce in possesion if you have a medical card, but carrying a pistol without a CCW permit is bad juju. Getting a CCW in Ca is next to imposssible, and getting a medical marijuana card in Az is next to impossible. Two sister states, extremely differant rules in this regard.

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Here in California, marijuana is semi-legal, but not recognized federally. Many northern communities thrive on the cash crop and have elaborate financial arrangements between growers and loaned money. If the feds roll a crop, the grower is screwed in more ways than one. The irony is, if you are in Arizona, you can carry legally any pistol you want, but possesion of even a gram of marijuana is a bust. In Ca, you can have an ounce in possesion if you have a medical card, but carrying a pistol without a CCW permit is bad juju. Getting a CCW in Ca is next to imposssible, and getting a medical marijuana card in Az is next to impossible. Two sister states, extremely differant rules in this regard.

Medical marijuana cards rock!

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