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Guns Control in Thailand

After the recent attack on a childcare centre in Nong Bua Lam Phu province in Thailand where 37 people have been killed including 24 preschool kids, the gun control legislation in Thailand has been once again brought to everyone’s attention. This has brought up some serious thought about the current firearms legislation in Thailand and the effects that this has had since the regulation has been implemented. Let’s first start with the history of this legislation and afterward look at the consequences this has had on the Thai community.

Military  and other specialists in front of childcare centre after mass shooting took place

History of the Legislation

Since the legislation of guns has been passaged in 1752 during the Ayutthaya period, gun ownership for personal and property protection has been allowed. In 1947, this gun ownership legislation had been further regulated to the Firearm, Ammunition, Explosives, Fireworks and the Equivalent of Firearms Act of 1947. Since this enactment, the Act has been amended nine times. World Population Review states that Thailand has more than 10.3 million firearms and the individual gun ownership rate is 15.10 per 100 persons. This makes Thailand the country with the highest gun ownership in ASEAN and the second highest in Asia after Pakistan. Besides this, Thailand has 1,052,815 military and 230,000 law enforcement firearms, which is higher than some richer countries, and even countries with ongoing conflicts such as Yemen and Syria.

The Department of Provincial Administration developed a gun database called e-DOPA License. This database was created to have an overview of the overall gun possession in Thailand; however, the database’s recent development and implementation only contains information of new firearms registrations. Earlier gun ownership registrations are undocumented. Also, the implementation of an adequate tracking system has proved insufficient due to gun permits being life-long. By law gun owners are supposed to notify the government of any transfer, trading, or distribution. However, in reality it is more easygoing than people would normally think and due to this reason, the database system serves as ineffective. It is also quite shocking how easy it is for civilians to apply for a gun permit. People can apply at more than 900 district offices nationwide and the approval of this permit is quite convenient and fast. The entire application process only takes 86 days and as unbelievable as it sounds, only costs five baht per gun. 

Analysis of the number of registered-, unregistered and civilian firearms in Thailand in 2017

Several Recent Incidents

All of this has resulted in multiple mass shootings and bombings in Thailand. In 2012 multiple bombings took place in three provinces in Southern Thailand, that resulted in 16 deaths and more than 321 people being injured. On the 17th of August in 2015, another bombing took place in Pathum Wan District killing 20 people and injuring 125 others. On the 6th of November 2019 15 people were killed and 5 critically injured due to a shooting that took place on a security checkpoint in Yala Province. In February of 2020 a mass shooting took place at a shopping mall in Nakhon Ratchasima province where the perpetrator was again a military officer. This mass shooting caused 30 deaths and wounding 58 others. In August 2022, a rivalry between teenage gangs engaged in a firearms dispute that lasted 40 minutes next to a supermarket, which led to 2 deaths, in Ubon Ratchathani province. A month later on the 14th of September, a shooting spree was committed by yet again another military officer, which also led to 2 deaths at the Army War College in Bangkok.

Incidents between 2010 and 2022 with further explanation of every incident

Illegal Firearms and the role of Corruption

An aspect that also has a major influence on this is the illegal distribution and selling of firearms, especially online. This is one of the main reasons why teenagers have easy access to firearms. It is very easy to be in contact with anyone within the black market online and purchase anything to your liking. The corruption factor of the Thai government plays a major role within this as well. There are multiple cases where police officers are the ones responsible for selling firearms online whenever they receive an order for specific weapons. What is also apparent, is the physical and mental abuse among military and police officers, which results in turning police stations into hotbeds of violence. Multiple reports state that a great number of draftees of the military are being physically and mentally abused and sometimes even killed during training. For the ones surviving this, it leaves an extreme mark on their wellbeing. How can anyone ensure that when these people are released back into society, they won’t unleash their pain and suffering among other people.

Young Thai teenage girl holding a firearm

Because of all of this, it doesn’t come as a shock that Thailand comes in second place after the Philippines among ASEAN countries. There are many instances of mass shootings yearly in Thailand and despite all these tragedies there is still no attempt by legislators or policymakers to suppress gun violence.

Comparing Japan to Thailand

Analysis of firearms control in Japan

In Asia, the country that has one of the strictest gun laws is Japan. Japan has one of the lowest rates of gun violence in the world. Statistics show that only 0.6 persons per 100 people in Japan own a gun, compared to 6.2 persons in the UK and 88.8 in the US. In Japan the police and banks rarely use guns as a means of security, but rather use martial arts to be able to control unruly crowds. The procedure to be able to acquire a gun license is very complicated. Candidates must undergo a mandatory mental health evaluation at the hospital, must pass a written exam and must complete a shooting range test with 95% accuracy. Police and military also endeavour a mandatory background check. Thailand containing a population of approximately 69 million people, while Japan containing a population of a bit more than 125 million people, can still keep the death rate of gun violence to 3 in 2019, making it 0.02 per 100,000 people. There are approximately 56.5 million more people living in Japan compared to Thailand, however the strict gun legislation does have an immense impact on keeping the gun violence at a minimum. The strict laws on firearms in Japan can be a great example for Thailand to follow.

Culture Perspective of Thai Society

Due to the relaxed laws and policies towards gun legislation, it has created a high tolerance within the Thai society. Thai people look at violent crimes as individual cases and not as structural problems. There are some improvements here, with the younger generation being more aware about this issue and complaining about this situation online, stating that they are experiencing a decrease of their personal safety. However, complaining about it online does not make much of a difference, because the reality is that many others within the Thai society have a different view on this.

A great example is the recent mass shooting at the childcare centre where many looked at the mental health issue and drug abuse of the perpetrator and overlooked the structural problem that this person with so many issues, had access to guns in the first place. After the attack, the Prime Minister of Thailand announced that in order for anyone to buy a gun, a psychological evaluation is required. The Prime Minister declared that rules regarding gun permitting would tighten in response to the attack of the killing of the many innocent children. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha states “There are overlapping problems between the use of guns that cause violence and behaviour caused by drug addicts and users”. Under these new regulations that the Prime Minister announced on the Wednesday after the shooting, anyone that wants to apply for a gun license must undergo a mandatory psychological assessment and must have a character reference from an employer or authority. Under this new law, owners of already registered firearms who have allegedly behaved in a certain way that threatens society can possibly get their license revoked. This new law will also make it mandatory for current police and military officers to go through regulatory evaluations for their gun ownership. The government has also mentioned that it plans to introduce a law that will mandate people to hand in their unregistered firearms without the threat of facing any charges. Even after all these promises of the government and the Prime Minister himself in response to the massacre at the childcare centre, it is still unclear when all these laws when be implemented and go into effect.

Flowers for every child murdered in the mass shooting at the childcare centre.

This recent massacre’s perpetrator had a drug addiction to yaba, which is a methamphetamine in pill form. Most of the mass shootings and mass bombings are done by men that have a serious drug problem and mental health issue. It is known that Thailand has massive amounts of methane coming in the country from Myanmar’s troubled state Shan, through Laos. Within Thailand there is a great divide between drug treatment services and harm reduction programmes, which leads to a difficulty for drug users to find rehabilitation centers in urban areas, while in Bangkok it is easier. Despite the shortage of rehabilitation centers in the rest of Thailand, there is also a great shortage of mental health professionals in the kingdom. The Thai society unfortunately already has this negative stigma towards mental health and drug use support, which discourages people to search for help in the first place. Most people in Thailand avoid talking about psychology or mental health, because when they do, the community immediately labels them as a ‘crazy person’.

This has to end

A mother who lost her young daughter in the mass shooting at the childcare centre.

There are many more laws and regulations towards gun control that need to be changed in order to legally reduce the problem of mass shootings and so many deaths within the Thai society. The government is responsible for this and needs to take upon this responsibility to change legislation to be able to not only change the mentality of the Thai people on gun control, but also to give them hope for a positive change for the future. The Thai government must realize that this is a major problem within their country. The massacre at the childcare center is a result of horrible structural management of gun control and improper support for drug users. This led to parents and family members literally losing their babies. This is not acceptable. This should not be able to happen. Unfortunately, it was not the first time, but hopefully will be the last time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Star-quality food on the Thai streets

The Thai cuisine is something special on its own already, not only in the restaurants but also in the kitchens of the Thai population. The Thai street food is the cream of the crop in comparison to the street food in other metropolis across the globe. In other cities the street-food is sometimes mistrusted or not regarded as a proper meal to have and therefore mostly ignored or passed by by tourists as well as by locals. In Bangkok things are different, way different, in fact there are food stalls that are serving food that is so good that the owners have been awarded with a Michelin star for their high quality food. This might seem like the highest possible reward for the jobs of the stall owners, this is however not always perceived like this by the stall owners. In the following blog there will be dug deeper into the reality of this.

Street food stall Bangkok (Reisenergie)

The beginning of Michelin in the streets

The Michelin star street food started in 2017 when Raan Jay Fai received a Michelin star for her outstanding food, which instantly gave her a lot of fame and a lot more customers. A Michelin star is the ultimate hallmark of culinary excellence, only the best chefs/cooks etc. are rewarded with one of such. This reward is provided by The Michelin Guide, which is an annually posted magazine with the best culinary highlights in the world (FineDingingLovers, n.d.). After Raan Jay Fai’s Michelin star, few other stalls have been rewarded with a Michelin star as a reward for their outstanding food quality. To name a few of these great chefs: Chakki, Ann uay Tiew Kua Gai and Thip Samai are several stall owners in Bangkok that earned a Michelin star for their food over 2018, following the success and fame of Raan Jay Fai.  All these street food stalls are located throughout the center of Bangkok. However, some of the list of Michelin stalls can be found close together, in one of the huge food markets that Bangkok has like lung Bang Rak and khlong Toey.

Honour of Michelin

Floating Market Bangkok (Migrationology)

Receiving a Michelin star, in case of restaurants, is perceived as one of the biggest honors that a restaurant can possibly get. It can be seen as a reward on the hard work of the owner, everything the owner has put into it or the amazing growth of the restaurant for example. The icing on the cake, if you will. This is the response that is mostly given by restaurants, the response of some street food stalls on a Michelin star is a little different, less enthusiastic. This is especially the case with Raan Jay Fai (73), as an old women she is not very happy with the massive number of customers she now has on the daily. She even had to create a reservation system for her food, in which the waiting lines grow up until the point of a two month wait. However, Raan Jay Fai still works as cool as a cucumber in front of her customers.

Raan Jay Fai at work (Investvine)

Considering that the quality of her food has not decreased since the receival of the Michelin star, even though Raan Jay Fai is unhappy about this massive number of guests.The reviews provided online are nothing but positive, in relation to the quality of the food, the only negative aspect would be the huge waiting time before receiving the meal. Because the Michelin star creates a massive workload for Raan Jay Fai, she even stated that she would like to get rid of the star if she could. Just to go back to the less busy times and be working at a regular pace, for a regular number of guests, at regular working hours.

What to order

Pad Thai street food (Adventure in You)

As may be clear, the Thai cuisine is something special and has some stunning dishes. There is a wide variety of  dishes presented on the streets, also by the Michelin street stalls that were mentioned earlier. Therefore, it might be nice to know what to order before going to such places, and get an image of which dishes are the ones that can add to the Thai experience best. Firstly, Sam Tam is one of the most popular dishes when it comes to Thai street food. Som Tam Thai usually is basically a papaya salad which can be enriched with other ingredients. The second popular dish is what tourists go nuts for; Pad Thai. Which is, as stated by the Thai population, not really an authentic Thai dish, but it was created for the tourists, less spicy than the usual Thai kitchen. It is known as the most flavorful noodle dish, which is usually prepared with bean sprouts, onion, fried egg, sugar and fish sauce. There are lots of takes on Pad Thai, where the most popular one on the streets is with shrimp. The third dish on the list is Thai Roti, which is some sort of fried bread or pancake in different takes as well, for example with banana or with ham and cheese for example.

Fish cakes Bangkok (TravelVui)

Another very popular Thai street food is fish cake, where the saying ‘’everything is better deep-fried’’ really works. The fish cake is more like a snack than an actual dish, but with chili sauce it is really worth the wait. A small tip would be to take it with something to fade away the spiciness of the dish, like cucumber for example. The fifth Thai street food dish is Khao Niew Ma Muang, which does not really have a translation. However, it is mango served with sticky rice and is a delicious Thai desert. It is usually served as a freshly cut mango, with sticky rice on the side and some coconut milk and dried yellow Moong beans on top for a little crunch. Both of these are not really full meals , as mentioned, but are usually eaten on the side or after a nice meal of Pad Thai or Thai Roti for example.

Both sides of Michelin street food

Busy Bangkok market for street food (Lonely Planet)

Receiving a Michelin as a restaurant owner is probably the highest possible reward on the hard work delivered to come to where the restaurant is at the moment. Because when a restaurant gets a Michelin star it gets so much more recognition and more customers that want to have a taste of the food that is of such a high quality according to testers. This is also the case for street food stalls obviously, after the street food stalls received a Michelin star their customer numbers went through the roof. Moreover, receiving a Michelin star brings a lot of fame with it as well. This is also a reason for more customers to the street food stalls, which is also immediately the reason for the other side of the Michelin stars that street food stalls received. There is however also a big downside of the Michelin appraisal for street food stalls. Raan Jay Fai is someone who has been very clear about this and even wants to get rid of, or give back the Michelin star. This because the people passing by the Maha Chai Road all want to have a taste of her stall and this causes massive lines for her food. Moreover, these lines of customers are forming a significantly higher workload than before she earned the Michelin star for her food. Even though her stall is bigger than the usual street food stalls in Bangkok, it is still not even close being big enough to handle this amount of customers on a daily base, like an actual restaurant could handle them.

Variety of Thai street snacks (SCMP)

To put it in a nutshell

The stunning Thai cuisine is present in all parts of the city, not only in restaurants and homes but also on the streets. The outstanding food has in some cases been awarded with a Michelin star which for restaurants is considered the highest possible honor. In the Thai street food stalls there is a high variety of dishes that one can order, but the most popular dishes among tourists are Pad Thai and Fish Cakes.

Thai street food stall (Time Magazine)

The Michelin stars have brought a lot of fame with it for the street food stalls, and therefore way more customers than before. However, in the case of Raan Jay Fai this Michelin star is more a negative thing than a positive thing. The reason of this is as easy as pie she is a women of 73 years old, Raan Jay Fai can hardly keep up with the high number of customers and is therefore pleading to give back the star to Michelin. Therefore, there can be said that the Michelin star has a positive and a negative side. Fame and high customer numbers and therefore income on the one hand. On the other hand is the high number of customers as well, which brings a high work load with it, which can be overwhelming for the stall owners.

 

 

Sources:

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FineDiningLovers. (8 November 2020)  What is a Michelin Star and How Do You Get One? Everything to Know. Retrieved 23 March from https://www.finedininglovers.com/article/what-are-michelin-stars

Holmes, O., (6 December 2017) Queen of Thai Street Food Wins Michelin Star in Bangkok Guide. The Guardian. Retrieved at 20 March 2021 from https://www.theguardian. com/lifeandstyle/2017/dec/06/queen-of-thai-street-food-jay-fai-wins-michelin-star-bangkok-guide

Ibrahim, Z., (15 August 2020). Michelin Star Street Food Stalls and 3 in the Region to try. Unreserved life. Retrieved at 22 March 2021 from https://www.unreservedmedia .com/michelin-star-street-food-stalls-and-the-3-most-popular-to-try-in-the-region/

NationThailand.com, (22 December 2017). Thai Street Food Cook Feels Heat of Michelin Frame. The Nation Thailand. Retrieved at 22 March 2021 from https://www.nation thailand.com/news/30334533

Osztonits, S., (n.d.) 18 Places to Find Official Michelin-Star Street Food You Can Eat in Central Bangkok. TripCanvas.co. Retrieved at 21 March 2021 from https://thailand .tripcanvas.co/bangkok/michelin-star-street-food/

Roxan, J., (13 December 2019)  The Downsides of Le Michelin Guide and its Coveted Stars. LUXUO, LIFESTYLE/GASTRONOMY. Retrieved at 23 March 2021 from https://www. luxuo.com/lifestyle/gastronomy/the-downsides-of-le-michelin-guide-and-its-coveted-stars.html

Tonon, R., (9 January 2018) Bangkok’s Only Michelin=Starred Street Food Vendor Wants to Give Back Star. Eater.com. retrieved at 26 March 2021 from  https://www.eater.com/2018/1/9/16865246/michelin-star-bangkok-raan-jay-fai-street-food-vendor

TasteOfThailand.org, (2020) Top 5 Street Foods & How to Order them. Retrieved at 23 March 2021 from https://www.tasteofthailand.org/top-5-thai-street-foods-how-to-order-them/