Thai Authorities Arrest 4 For Selling Gun to Mall Shooter

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Thai Authorities Arrest 4 For Selling Gun to Mall Shooter

Since Tuesday’s shooting at Siam Paragon mall in Bangkok, Thai authorities have promised to clamp down on online firearm sales.

Thai Authorities Arrest 4 For Selling Gun to Mall Shooter

Three of the four men arrested for allegedly selling modified firearms to the teenager who carried out this week’s shooting at Siam Paragon mall attend a press conference in Bangkok, Thailand, Oct. 5, 2023.

Credit: AP Photo/Surat Sappakun

Thai police yesterday arrested four men suspected of illegally selling modified firearms to the teenager who went on a deadly shooting spree at a ritzy shopping mall in the Thai capital Bangkok on Tuesday.

According to a report by Reuters, two of the four were arrested in Bangkok and two in Yala province in southern Thailand. They have been detained on suspicion of selling the 14-year-old shooter a blank gun that had been modified to shoot real bullets.

Reuters quoted a police official as saying that the men had been caught in possession of illegal firearms, narcotics, and tools that they had used to modify pistols. He added that they were also found with livestreaming equipment, which the official implied that they had been using to sell weapons on social media.

The shooting at Siam Paragon, one of Asia’s most famous shopping centers, left two people dead – a Chinese national and a citizen of Myanmar – and injured five others. The teenager has since been charged with five criminal counts, including premeditated murder and illegal possession of a firearm.

Thailand has the highest rate of gun ownership in Southeast Asia. According to the Small Arms Survey, there are more than 10 million firearms in the hands of civilians in Thailand, only 6.2 million of which have proper legal documentation. While mass shootings are rare, the country sees frequent gun-related incidents and the country’s  strict ownership rules are often circumvented.

The Siam Paragon shooting has had an unusual political impact in Thailand. While it has involved fewer victims than other recent mass shootings, such as last year’s massacre at a day care center in Nong Bua Lamphu province, which took the lives of 36 people, the fact that it took place at the center of the Thai capital, rather than on the country’s periphery, has created pressure for action. The incident is also a setback to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s efforts to revive the country’s tourist industry, which is still yet to recover fully from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The shooting has already prompted Srettha to announce a tightening of gun control measures. “I’ve spoken with the national police chief about the proliferation of online gun sales,” he said. “We are implementing stricter controls to ensure that young people cannot easily get their hands on these dangerous weapons.”

Specifically, Thai National Police Chief Torsak Sukvimol said on Wednesday that Thailand will close legal loopholes relating to the existing firearm classifications, under which the blank gun used by the shooter was not classified as a lethal firearm, and ban imports of blank guns, BB guns, and imitation firearms. Torsak also said that police will form a team to tackle the illegal sale of firearms online. According to Reuters, the Thai government will also stop issuing additional permits for gun imports and possession.