By Wassayos Ngamkham
City police are imposing measures to further tighten gun control in a bid to curb urban violence linked to firearms.
Immediately after Pol Lt Gen Khamronwit Thoopkrachang assumed his role as chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau in June, he announced there was a clear need to clamp down on the city’s crimes _ and that guns were a major part of the problem.
He said the aim was to make Bangkok a weapons-free society.
Pol Lt Gen Khamronwit said many crimes involved the use of guns and this suggested that possession of firearms, both legally and illegally, is widespread.
“I think the best solution is to try to confiscate those guns,” he said.
Several checkpoints have been set up around the clock to search passing vehicles and their occupants for illegal weapons.
City police have conducted three major rounds of weapon suppression in Bangkok since June.
Metropolitan Police Bureau statistics show that 240 guns were seized during the campaign from June 22-26, 349 guns from July 23-28 and 178 guns confiscated from Sept 7-16.
The highest number of seized weapons were found in the jurisdiction of Metropolitan Police Division 1, which covers the heart of Bangkok in Din Daeng, Huai Khwang and Makkasan.
“The high rate of seizure in division 1 is attributed to its large population size as well as scores of entertainment venues in the area,” Pol Lt Gen Khamronwit said.
“The districts must be seriously monitored,” the city police chief added.
He said the seized firearms included about two dozen war weapons such as AK-47 assault rifles and M16s.
After the suppression, Pol Lt Gen Khamronwit said the city’s crime rate had shown signs of a 50% reduction, with fewer cases of crimes involving guns in the past two months.
The crackdown on weapons use seemed to be bearing fruit and showed that police were on the right track, he added.
Those who possess illegal firearms range from teenagers to the middle-aged.
Many often keep their guns in their cars and motorcycles, Pol Lt Gen Khamronwit said, with the serial numbers often scratched out to prevent tracing the origins of the weapon.
The popularity of home-made guns has diminished because the bullet trajectory of these weapons is not always accurate, he added.
All confiscated weapons will be documented and police will investigate to see if they matched the descriptions of guns used in previous crimes.
If a match is found, the weapons owners will be charged with those crimes, he said.
“There is a likelihood that some owners of the guns also own some illegal items which they keep at home. So their houses will have to be searched as well,” Pol Lt Gen Khamronwit said.
On many occasions, police searches uncovered stashes of ammunition and illicit drugs at the suspects’ houses, he added.
Bangkok police will work with the Interior Ministry to collect data of gun ownership licences in the past five years.
The data could be used to help identify criminals and move investigations along.
Some legally-registered guns approved for purchase by authorities have sometimes found their way into the hands of criminals, Pol Lt Gen Khamronwit explained.
Authorities are able to buy legal guns for almost half of the market price.
However, the serial numbers of some of these guns were scratched off, making them “anonymous” and ready for re-sale to the criminals, he said.
“People who possess legal guns must keep them at home, except for those who have a licence to carry them,” Pol Lt Gen Khamronwit said.
He said unregistered gun holders will face swift punishment if investigations reveal that their guns have been used as instruments to commit serious crimes.