Only the rich in Thailand can afford to scratch an itchy trigger finger
By Richard S. Ehrlich
“Guns are really expensive, so it is considered a sport for the rich, like cars and stuff like that. It is like a Louis Vuitton for guys, or a Hermes for guys,” said Polpatr Tanomsup, director of international relations at Thailand’s Firearms Association.
With no major firearms industry, Thailand imports the majority of guns on sale on Bangkok’s Burapha Road, where 90% of the city’s gun shops are located.
Thanks to the 30% import tax authorities have slapped on guns and juicy retail profit margins, a Glock is five times more expensive in Thailand, at $2,500, than it is in the US.
American guns are the most popular weapons as they are considered better value than their cheaper Chinese counterparts. Europe no longer exports to the Kingdom due to unrest in the country’s southern provinces, where ethnic Malay-Thai Islamists are fighting for autonomy.
“[The Europeans] say they don’t want their guns to be used for the inhumane killing of people,” said Polpatr.
Thailand has the highest gun-ownership rate in Southeast Asia, but the majority of people who buy firearms do so primarily for protection, and secondly for collection.
“The people who buy here for personal protection usually live in rural areas where it is dangerous,” said Polpatr, adding that popular guns are 9mm shotguns and 22-rimfire rifles.
Many collectors in the Kingdom are willing to drop more than $6,500 to get their hands on a 45-calibre Colt, an Ed Brown 1911 handgun or a Nighthawk Custom firearm.
However, before a Thai can become a gun owner, he or she must first prove that they have an income and assets worth protecting.
“On paper they will ask, ‘Have you been threatened by other people?’ And let’s say you say, ‘Yes’, then it would be harder for you to get a gun, because they will know you are actually going to use that to kill someone,” Polpatr said. It takes about a month to receive a licence, which costs six baht ($0.20)
Foreigners looking to pick up a pistol must present a valid work permit and house registration in Thailand and undergo a criminal record check.
While not many foreigners purchase guns in the Kingdom, the shops that line Burapha Road allow walk-in traffic and can produce custom-made holsters in about a week for $30. However, firearm salesmen don’t allow photographs to be taken of their deadly arsenals.
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