Thailand has by far the greatest number of guns in circulation compared to any other country in ASEAN, 50 times more than Singapore and over three times more than the nearest country, Cambodia. However, while gun deaths exceed the United States by 30% they are far behind the rate seen in the Philippines. The combination of Thailand’s chronic problems of gun violence, mental health issues and drug abuse results in a deadly cocktail that produces nights of carnage and human misery such as that seen on Saturday in two provinces near Bangkok.
On Saturday night, police in Thailand were called to the scenes of two senseless shootings where three people lost their lives. The first, in Pathum Thani, central Thailand, neighbouring Bangkok, was the scene of a youth gang ambush where an unidentified 16-year-old boy’s body was found while the other, three hours later, in Chonburi, involved a hallucinating and intoxicated 38-year-old man who indiscriminately gunned down three middle-aged men after one had asked him for a bottle of beer. Just another day in Thailand which is suffering under the weight of twin chronic problems, drug abuse and gun violence.
At 10 pm on Saturday, Chonburi police were called to the scene of human slaughter at a village in the Ban Bueng District in the centre of the province after a lone gunman opened fire unexpectedly on several men at a local store.
Police, led by Police Colonel Thawi Kudthaeng and Police Lieutenant Colonel Wutthipong Talam, of Ban Bueng station, responded to the emergency and also called in a request for emergency support services at the scene.
Police met a seriously injured 50-year-old man at the shooting scene outside a grocery store in Chonburi
On arrival at the grocery store, they found 50-year-old Mr Udon Suklert at the scene.
He was seriously injured with two shots to both of his legs from an 11 mm or .45 calibre gun and also a wound to his abdomen.
Police also found the body of 55-year-old Niphon Yim Yim who had expired after being shot once into his right rib cage with another also embedded on the other side.
Approximately 20 metres from there, police found the body of 55-year-old Mr Wichan Thanu, also known as Kaew, who had been hit by a hail of bullets causing wounds to his upper and lower abdomen as well as two wounds above his right and left eyebrows in addition to being also hit and injured with a shot to the right-hand shoulder.
Man ran from his attacker fatally injured after trying in vain to wrestle the gun from the crazed killer
The man had attempted to run from the scene with his already fatal injuries after being shot while trying to wrestle the gun away from the assailant.
Police at the scene interviewed Ms Mayuree Chaiyawut, Mr Niphon’s wife.
She told officers that the perpetrator, nicknamed Gan, had suddenly attacked the group of men as they sat at a horseshoe-shaped stone table outside the grocery store in a group of four people.
Ms Mayuree said she had not known the attacker but was aware that people often brought guns to the area outside the shop to play with while drinking alcohol.
One of the men who was involved in the incident but who was left unhurt, Mr Chatri Sangsuthin, told police officers that the younger man identified by police as 38-year-old Supakorn Charoen Ngamsap or Gan, had arrived at the store on a blue-grey Honda Wave motorcycle.
38 year old arrived at the grocery store on a motorbike and came back out with a bottle of beer, he appeared to be already intoxicated as he consumed it
He appeared to be drunk and bought a bottle of beer at the shop which he consumed outside at a table near where the four men were sitting together.
Mr Chatri said he appeared to be intoxicated.
It is reported that one of the men at the table next to the attacker, believed to be Mr Niphon, suggested that he would also like a beer.
This prompted the younger man to produce his handgun and shoot Mr Niphon twice, killing him at the scene.
Two of the other people at the table ran but were shot at with Mr Udon suffering injuries while Mr Chatri was unscathed.
The gunman was then tackled by Mr Wichan leading to the older man’s demise after he attempted to flee with multiple gunshot wounds.
Police at Ban Bueng Police Station later established the identity of the man they were looking for.
He had taken flight to the home of a girlfriend on his motorbike in the Phanat Nikhom district of Chonburi in the northern part of the coastal province.
Paranoid, hallucinating suspect cornered at the back of a vegetable garden by armed police with shields
With the assistance of police from Phanat Nikhom Police Station, the 38-year-old suspect was located at the back of a vegetable garden at his father in law’s home.
Police found the man in a frenzied and uncontrollable state.
They reported that he was suffering from paranoia. He was threatening to kill himself by putting the gun to his head and was clearly still intoxicated.
Officers had also become aware, at that stage, that the man responsible for the carnage at the grocery store had a history of drug-taking and hallucinations which made them extra cautious.
At the scene, policemen deployed body armour and shields to surround the suspect and negotiate with him.
He finally surrendered to them four hours later in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Unprovoked attack blamed on a buildup of stress, the men had made him angry, the killer told police
Mr Supakorn or Gan was taken to Ban Bueng Police Station on Sunday morning but was first of all questioned at Phanat Nikhom Police Station where officers found him to still be in an incoherent state.
He indicated to them that he had grown angry with the men at the grocery store because they had admonished him for his behaviour and this had made him uncontrollably angry.
He explained that his actions were the result of accumulated stress that had been building inside him for a long time.
Investigating officers recovered an 11 mm handgun after they arrested the suspect together with ammunition rounds.
It had been purchased by him on the black market only four days previously.
Police sources say Mr Supakorn will face charges including murder, attempted murder and illegally using a gun in a public case without legal justification.
Body of an unidentified 16-year-old boy found at Pathum Thani work site by police earlier on Saturday
Earlier on Saturday, Pathum Thani police had been called to a construction campsite in the Lam Luk Ka district of Pathum Thani where workers returning to their accommodation had found the body of a young teenager dead behind a wall.
The men had, first of all, thought it was a young person sleeping but on approaching the body, they found it was dead and lying in a pool of blood.
The workers found the body lying on its back.
Police Lieutenant Colonel Chanika Sathianchaikit of Khu Khot Police Station responded to the incident together with Police Colonel Thanakrit Booncharoen, the Deputy Commander of Pathum Thani Provincial Police.
Youth gang staged an ambush on rivals, police revealed after studying CCTV, that the mortally wounded teenager climbed over a wall to die
From an examination of CCTV footage and other intelligence, police believe the young man, who was wearing jeans pants and a top together with a white T-shirt underneath, appears to have been one member of a youth gang involved in an ambush in the vicinity of the construction site earlier in the day.
One group of teenagers had staged an ambush on another rival band.
The victim is believed to have been approximately 16 years old and was killed by one fatal shot from a handmade gun or pen gun used by members of the other gang.
It is believed that he climbed over the wall when hit by the shot and subsequently died at the scene.
Gun deaths in Thailand exceed the United States but are second in Southeast Asia behind the Philippines
The daily carnage in Thailand from gun violence has left the kingdom with a metric for gun-related violent deaths which exceed the United States by over 30% but is significantly behind the Philippines.
Thailand has a rate of 4.5 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants compared to 7.42 for the Philippines and 3.85 for the United States.
The current problem in Thailand is being exacerbated by a worsening drug use epidemic, particularly among the less well off.
In October last year, the United Nations acknowledged a seizure of 1.5 million tons of crystal methamphetamine from Laos as well as 55 million methamphetamine tablets by the Royal Thai Police as the largest single drug haul in the long history of narcotics trafficking in Asia.
Drug epidemic in Thailand at unprecedented levels
This along with the seizure of billions of baht worth of drug-related assets in recent raids and seizures by money laundering and anti-corruption authorities in Thailand is evidence of the boom in the illicit drugs trade that is currently wreaking havoc throughout the kingdom.
It is another chronic problem to add to a long list of ailments that beset the country including a record level of household debt and informal borrowing, road traffic accident rates and a rapidly ageing population.
Thailand also has a growing problem with mental health issues across the population.
Last week, a survey of Thailand’s 143 prisons found that nearly 2% of the population of 260,000 inmates or 5,000 were suffering from serious mental health problems particularly those in Bangkok and adjacent provinces.
Thailand has three times as many guns per head as second-placed Cambodia, 50 times that of Singapore
Thailand has approximately 6.6 million legally registered firearms which are approved by authorities.
However, the number of illegal firearms is growing and it is estimated that the kingdom is home to 10.3 million guns.
This is by far the highest ratio of guns to a population in the 10 nation ASEAN bloc with 15.1 guns for every 100 people compared to 4.5 for Cambodia which is the country that has the next highest ratio.
Drug violence and death are now a daily part of life in Thailand, drug dealer dies in a firefight with police
Singapore, by comparison, has 0.3 guns for 100 people.
To legally own a gun in Thailand, applicants must submit to a rigorous interview by a representative of the Ministry of the Interior in addition to extensive vetting and screening.
Only Thai nationals may own a firearm in the kingdom.