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Phuket Opinion: Preventing the nightmare

PHUKET: While families who lost loved ones in the massacre in Nong Bua Lam Phu on Thursday reel with grief, some focus is finally being put on the issues that allowed the horrific incident, the worst mass murder perpetrated by a single person in Thailand’s recorded history, happen in the first place

opinionviolencecrimepolice
By The Phuket News

Sunday 9 October 2022, 09:00AM


Ground Zero: The day care centre in Nong Bua Lam Phu. Photo: AFP

Ground Zero: The day care centre in Nong Bua Lam Phu. Photo: AFP

Real gun control is finally in the spotlight, even among active members of the police. However, how much actual action will be taken remains to be seen. Old habits die hard. Only when a uniformed person commits a truly heinous crime do police or other armed services even admit that one of their own committed the act, nevermind take action to prevent the next similar incident.

For examples in Phuket, people need look no further than the long, drawn-out saga of the shooting of a noodle vendor on Bangla Rd last year, and what it took to report on that shooting, and compare it with the shooting of 7-year-old girl shot with a policeman’s gun left loaded and unattended in a drawer at a housewarming party while the children roamed free just two months ago.

The Bangla shooting highlighted how much police like to treat every such incident involving police officer, and Phuket has had a few, as a “bad apple” among the ranks – again not understanding just how many bad apples it takes to spoil a barrel. The second incident, with no action against the officer who left his loaded handgun within easy access in a house with unattended children roaming freely, highlighted just how much police in Phuket – before Nong Bua Lam Phu – couldn’t care less about enforcement of gun safety laws.

Meanwhile, police are happy to regularly report how many illegal firearms are seized in seasonal campaigns, but not understanding that what is being highlighted is how many illegal guns are floating around in Thailand in the first place.

Western countries over the past few decades have sadly grown more accustomed to mass killings by single persons, but mostly carried out by guns. The nature of the attack in Nong Bua Lam Phu and the specific targeting of children – 24 children no more than 5 years old were killed in the attack – sets this latest abomination apart.

If people in Phuket are worried about how many guns are out there, they should stop and think just how far away they are from the nearest knife. Thais often carry knives with them, mostly for convenience in dealing with fruit, also often for other genuine functional purposes. As anyone who has driven along enough Thai rural highways already knows, the standard sign that a vehicle is broken down is to place a broken tree branch behind the vehicle, most often cut down with a bladed instrument of some kind.

C and C Marine

As such, police in Phuket so far have been interested in charging people with carrying a weapon in a public area only if the weapon is actually used. But by that time it is a too late. Worse, even when the likes of a passenger van driver involved in a brawl strikes another driver with an axe that he was carrying in his van, the only punishment made public is his driver’s licence being suspended for six months. Notably, that was the same punishment handed down to the other two van drivers involved in the brawl, neither of whom brandished any weapon.

Police in Phuket love covering up any selected misdeeds by never reporting what punishment is handed down to the perpetrators, again not recognising what damage they are doing to Phuket’s “tourism image”, especially when the incident involves an armed officer or a “public transport” driver. While the selective treatment of such cases may not openly evidence corruption, it does show local police to be capricious at best.

But most importantly in the aftermath of Nong Bua Lam Phu much focus is being put on curtailing mentally unstable people roaming free, especially with a plethora of weapons within easy access as the norm within the country.

With Nong Bua Lam Phu, many red flags were raised long before the attack happened that should have alerted those tasked with protecting society from such individuals of the potential danger. Thanks to a lax attitude, nothing was done. With such people, as deputy national police chief Pol Gen Torsak Sukwimol pointed out, anything could have triggered the horrific attack. The main danger was the person. Access to the weapons was ancillary. 

The meeting led by the Phuket Governor on Friday, calling for stricter enforcement of weapons and drugs laws, and the bolstering of security at schools, is only a first step, one that was long overdue. What is needed is more action in placing people of obvious potential danger under greater scrutiny, for their welfare as well as the public’s safety.

A mother on Koh Maphrao understood that about her own son and alerted authorities yesterday. She understood the potential danger. Let’s hope Phuket officials do too, so we can take at least some steps towards preventing the next nightmare.

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Capt B | 10 October 2022 - 11:39:52

,, Was it prescription drugs prescribed by the ex copper's medical practitioner ? Although Thailand needs to 100% get rid of the "THAI METH PROBLEM", anti-depressants are responsible 9 times out of 10 for mass murders. 

Capt B | 10 October 2022 - 11:31:06

Germanwings flight 9525. Andreas Lubitz was on anti-depressants & the powerfull tranquilizer Lorazepam.  Thailand 2022:
Bloomberg: "A blood test found no trace of the drug (methamphetamine), police said on Friday."
The 2 known side effects of mind altering addictive psychotropic drugs: Mass Murder & Suicide.
Was it prescription drugs prescribed by the ex copper's medical p...

JohnC | 10 October 2022 - 08:59:19

A good article with one minor correction needed. It is not western countries getting more used to mass killings by individuals. It is only ONE western country know as America that is the home of these type of regular slaughters. Earlier this year more than one mass killing a day was their national average. How can anyone look up to such a violent messed up society...

Kurt | 10 October 2022 - 06:53:34

@christysweet,  Very true. However that needs proactive thinking and doings. But in LOS one doesn't act without any order from 'above'.  And 'above' is half the time not interested in what happens 'down'. Unless something like this happens, and worse, it goes around global. Than show time starts, until damage dust disappears. But  it never triggers a structural change o...

christysweet | 09 October 2022 - 11:34:18

Most of the children were killed with a knife.  Had  this killer  been treated as an addict, perhaps diagnosed with mental illness instead of a 
 disgraced criminal,  AND GOTTEN HELP , it is likely those 37 people would stll be alive.

 

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