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38 dead after daycare center shooting

An armed ex-cop stormed a day care center in northeast Thailand and fired on it. He killed numerous children. His wife and their son are also among the victims.

People gather outside the daycare center where an ex-cop killed over 30 people.

Sakdipat Boonsom via Reuters

In Thailand on Thursday afternoon, a former police officer killed at least 38 people, 22 of whom are said to be children. The killing spree happened in the northeastern province of Nong Bua Lamphu. According to the findings so far, the 34-year-old perpetrator Panya Khamlarb wanted to pick up his son from a day care center after a court hearing for a drug offense.

When he did not find it, he attacked the caregivers and children with a gun and a knife. He killed more people while fleeing in a pickup truck. When he got home, he shot his wife and their son. He then judged himself. At least twelve people are said to be injured, eight of whom are in critical condition. The perpetrator had had to resign from the police service for possession of methamphetamine pills.

Thailand has had a “Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, Fireworks and Imitation Weapons Act” since 1947. According to this, Thais are only allowed to apply for a gun license to defend themselves, protect their property, and for sports and hunting. And the law forbids a number of people the possession of firearms. This includes Thais who are convicted of a crime, addicted to drugs, infirm, disabled or of unsound mind, and minors.

The law prohibiting foreigners from owning guns in Thailand also has harsh penalties. For example, foreigners who possess an unlicensed firearm can be sentenced to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 20,000 baht, the equivalent of 525 francs. Anyone caught with a gun registered to someone else faces up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of 10,000 baht. However, it is known in Thailand that the law can be circumvented by paying bribes or through administrative connections.

There are said to be millions of illegal weapons in Thailand. Six million firearms are officially registered. In addition, there is a high number of unreported cases. Operated by the University of Sydney Gunpolicy.org website estimates that there are up to 4.3 million unregistered guns in circulation. In Southeast Asia, Thailand leads the way in civilian gun ownership per 100,000 people: it is reported to be 15.6, compared to Indonesia and Singapore at just 0.5 each.

In Thailand, not as many people are killed by guns as in America

The annual rate of all gun deaths per 100,000 population

There is a simple reason for this high level of gun ownership among Thais: In Thailand, guns can be bought illegally on the Internet despite the lack of a gun license. According to the website Thai PBS, a pistol costs between 2,500 and 15,000 baht on social media, which is between 66 and 394 francs. And there is no shortage of firearms in the Southeast Asian country. Thailand is considered a hub for arms smuggling. The firearms come from neighboring countries like Cambodia and Myanmar. Other centers of the black market for weapons in the region are Cambodia and Vietnam.

Two years ago, a soldier in Thailand shot out of anger over a real estate deal. It killed 29 people and injured 57 at the time. In Southeast Asia, Thailand also ranks first in the number of people killed by guns per 100,000 people. The last available value was 1.88 in 2019. Compared to Southeast Asia, the situation is particularly bad in the Philippines. In 2014 – more recent figures are not available – 7.88 people per 100,000 inhabitants were murdered by firearms there. However, a look at the statistics shows that the Philippines and Thailand are well behind the United States. In America, gun violence killed more than 12 people per 100,000 people in 2019.

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