11 July 2024

Out of ten ASEAN member countries, Thailand has the highest number of guns in the possession of private individuals, with 10,342,000 guns being recorded in 2017, according to the Small Arms Survey (SAS).

The SAS is an independent research project, located at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. It provides information on all aspects of small arms and armed violence, as a resource for governments, policy-makers, researchers and activists, as well carrying out research on small arms issues.

Worldwide, in 2017, there were more than 800 million privately-owned guns. The United States has the most, with 393,347,000 guns in private possession.

Of the 10,342,000 guns recorded by SAS in 2017 in Thailand, 6,221,180 were legally registered and the rest illegal. This means that, for every 100 people in Thailand, about 15 possess a gun.

Updated information is not available from the SAS, but it is widely believed that the actual number of guns in the hands of private individuals to date is much higher.

Of the 6,221,180 legally registered guns, 3,744,877 are handguns and the rest rifles.

Prices of legal guns, especially hand guns in Thailand, are very high and unaffordable for most people. The price of a .22 calibre rifle may start at 30,000 baht and a pistol may fetch at least 80,000 baht and over 100,000 baht for the high-end brands.

The Thai Ministry of Interior, however, has a gun welfare program, through which state agencies, such as the Royal Thai Police, the Customs Department and state enterprises,can import guns through local gun traders for their staff at lower than market prices. The average price of a hand gun bought under this program ranges from 40,000-50,000 baht.

The alternative for those who cannot afford a legally-registered handgun is an illegal gun, which is much cheaper.

There is no limit on the number of guns an official can buyunder the gun welfare scheme. Those who can afford to can possess several guns. The three main reasons to buy a gun are for self-defence and protection of property, for sport and for game hunting.

According to the records of the Royal Thai Police, from 2016 to 2019, there were 91,376 criminal cases related to illegal firearms and 25,034 cases related to legally-registered firearms.