A recent shooting incident at a downtown Bangkok mall that resulted in two fatalities has sent shockwaves through the region. Mass shootings are relatively uncommon in Thailand, despite the country’s high rate of private firearm ownership. Nevertheless, this marks the third instance of an American-style mass shooting in recent years.
The alleged perpetrator, a 14-year-old boy, was apprehended wearing a cap adorned with a prominent American flag. Reports suggest that he had been struggling with mental health issues and was prescribed medication.
Furthermore, it came to light that he had developed an unhealthy fascination with violence, particularly on unrestricted social media platforms. Prior to the incident, he had posted videos of himself at a firing range, engaging in firearm training.
This disturbing pattern bears a disconcerting resemblance to similar incidents in the United States. It seems that a segment of Thai society is now grappling with the same senseless violence that has plagued American communities.
However, much of the Thai media and government response appears to be fixated on addressing the symptoms, such as “gun control” and heightened security measures at public places, rather than addressing the root causes of such violence.
For those who have witnessed Thailand’s transformation over the past two decades, significant changes have occurred, both positive and negative. While some changes have had a beneficial impact, others have been imported from abroad and carry negative consequences.
The proliferation of Western-style fast food has led to notable shifts in dietary habits and body image among Thais. The younger generation has increasingly embraced Western-style tattoos and adopted a more individualistic perspective, contrasting with Thailand’s traditional values of hierarchy, respect for elders, and community.
In many respects, these changes are shaping segments of the population in a manner more reminiscent of American culture than Thai heritage.
Consequently, Thailand is experiencing some of the chronic problems that have eroded social stability in the United States.
One of the United States’ most significant challenges is its toxic culture of dehumanization and violence. This culture is perpetuated not only through media, including games, movies, and television series but also through real acts of violence, including frequent mass shootings.
Moreover, this culture of dehumanization and violence extends to U.S. foreign policy, with hundreds of American military bases abroad and a history of aggressive wars in various regions. This foreign policy, prioritizing American interests over others, filters down to a culture of violence that often disregards the humanity of victims.
Observing contemporary American society illustrates the consequences of embracing “Western” values. Thailand’s youth are increasingly influenced by this culture of dehumanization and violence, inspired by modern American “culture” and “values”.
While stricter gun control measures may help prevent firearms from falling into the hands of the mentally ill or minors, individuals infected with these American influences may still pose a danger, even without access to firearms. A population impacted by this culture risks destabilization, mirroring the challenges currently faced by Western nations.
For Thailand, a nation known for its economic success in agriculture, industry, and tourism, social harmony has been a key attraction for tourists and a pillar of regional partnerships. Allowing Thai society to be gradually infiltrated by these American exports of dehumanization and violence would mean forfeiting some of Thailand’s most valuable attributes.
Addressing the trend toward American-style dehumanization and violence in Thailand cannot rely solely on “gun control” and increased security measures. It necessitates recognition of the issue, followed by efforts to safeguard against it and promote social harmony through various means, including family, community, schools, and institutions.