Gun Ownership is Common in Thailand, But Shootings Are Not

Mass shootings are rare in Thailand, but in a country with millions of firearms, the authorities have long worried about the potential for more gun violence.

There were more than 10.3 million privately owned firearms in Thailand in 2017, according to a survey by gunpolicy.org, a nonprofit organization based at the University of Sydney. Only about six million of those were registered.

The rate of private firearm ownership in Thailand that year worked out to about 15 guns for every 100 private citizens, the group said. That was far fewer than the United States’ rate of 120 guns per 100 people in the same year.

But Thailand, a majority Buddhist country of about 69 million, has some of Asia’s highest rates of gun ownership and gun homicide. It is also a key underground market for firearms in Southeast Asia.

Even though mass shootings in Thailand are rare, violence has raged for years in three southernmost provinces bordering Malaysia, where an ethnic Malay Muslim insurgency has been battling security forces. Attacks there have come in the form of drive-by shootings; ambushes of security checkpoints; and bombs targeting military outposts, shopping malls, hotels and other crowded locations.

In 2019, a gunman killed at least 15 people at a security checkpoint in the southern province of Yala, the worst outbreak of violence in that region in years.

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