By Pisapat Youkongpun, Budsarakham Sinlapalavan
An Interior Ministry project offering its staff - and now MPs - guns at a 50% discount is a hot success
As the political temperature heats up, politicians - who have to visit villagers on field trips and have political enemies - have to be more careful about their safety. So one of the first things they do is to find a personal weapon to protect themselves.
And they don't have to look far or hard: in a project, the Interior Ministry's Department of Provincial Administration has been selling pistols and shotguns to its officials at a 50-per-cent discount. This year the department is offering to sell guns to Parliament members too.
Around 70 per cent or 200 MPs have ordered guns as the price is cheap and the weapons give them added protection - and a good night's sleep.
Sakda Khongpej, chairman of the Committee on the House of Representatives Affairs and Pheu Thai MP, says the project certainly helps MPs to protect themselves.
"Especially when the MPs visit villagers at night, it is quite dangerous. Political violence can take place any time," he says. He believes MPs have maturity and a conscience, which will help them not to use the weapon in wrong ways.
As a gun lover, Chart Thai Pattana Party MP Niaris Chetaphiwat has ordered three under the project. He already possesses a few.
He became interested in guns after his grandfather, who was a candidate for president of a subdistrict administration organisation, was shot in front of him when he was just 14. It was then he feared that if it happened to him, no one could protect him except himself.
Niaris said it is a good idea for MPs to buy guns on the cheap. All MPs he knows have ordered guns. He always carries his gun because he is an MP of Narathiwat, an area hit by continuous violence.
In fact, he would like to expand the advantage (of the 50-per-cent discount) to ordinary people in order to solve the illegal-gun problem and provide a training course for those who possess guns.
Udon Thani Pheu Thai MP Anan Sripan says he believes 70 per cent of MPs have ordered a gun under the project. "We never know who our enemies are. We could be attacked at any time, so we should have a gun to protect our lives," says Anan, who has ordered a gun.
Democrat MP from Chantha-buri Yukol Chanawatpanya says he's buying a gun because of the cheap price. He wants it solely for protection.
But voters are concerned.
Sarima, 44, for instance says she is surprised to learn about the project for MPs to buy pistols at special prices. "We have witnessed yelling and, from time to time, even punching in Parliament. The MPs just might wish to use their weapons to protect themselves from one another," she points out.