Crime & Courts

Illegal firearms a mere click away [NSTTV]

KOTA BARU: For Malaysian criminals, buying firearms from the black market in Thailand has never been easier.

Previously, they would rely on an extensive network of contacts to secure guns in the neighbouring country and smuggle them over the border themselves.

That exposes them to the risk of being caught when traversing one of the many illegal crossings along Sungai Golok to Pasir Mas in Kelantan.

Now, with Internet technology, criminals need only browse a website to choose their weapons.

The hot and dry spell, which has dried up parts of Sungai Golok, has enabled them to easily walk across the border within a minute without being detected by patrols.

Thai police said the illegal firearms were purchased via Thai-run sites in the darkweb.

Sungai Golok police chief Colonel Jadsadavit Inprapan said Malaysian criminals would either order these weapons themselves or get their Thai contacts to purchase the guns on their behalf.

"These guns, usually from Bangkok, would be brought to Thai border towns for buyers to pick up," he said, adding that Sungai Golok town on the Thai side was fast becoming a "meeting point" for these transactions.

Jadsadavit said based on their checks, the most popular pistols sought by Malaysians include revolvers, as well as Glock and Sig Sauer handguns.

He said such guns were also cheaper in the Thai black market, costing between RM2,000 and RM8,000 each.

However, their prices, he said, would usually double when resold in Malaysia.

He said Sungai Golok police had been seizing an average of one illegal firearm a week in the border town.

The latest incident involved two Malaysians from Kelantan and Kuala Lumpur, who were arrested in a pub last month.

Two illegal guns were found in their possession.

Gun-related crimes recently came under the spotlight in Malaysia.

Last month, a man suspected of being an Israeli agent was arrested at a hotel in Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur where he was found with six handguns.

The pistols included a Glock 19 Marine, Glock 17 Gen 4, Smith and Wesson, Sig Sauer and Stoeger, along with 200 rounds of ammunition. He had illegally bought the firearms from a local couple, who in turn, obtained them from Thailand.

On Monday, police arrested a man who tried to shoot his wife at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on the day before. He missed his target and hit his wife's bodyguard instead.

Police believed he also obtained his gun from a neighbouring country.

Kelantan police chief Datuk Muhamad Zaki Harun said they were aware of the existence of encrypted websites that illegally sold firearms.

"We have received information from our Thai counterparts, who have been sharing intelligence on the issue," he said, adding that state police were beefing up measures to tackle the problem.

Zaki said there had been an increase in the number of firearm seizures in the state.

He said in 2022, state police had seized nine illegal guns. That number, he said, rose to 19 last year.

"In the first three months of this year, we have seized eight illegal firearms," he said, adding that the majority of the seizures took place in the Pasir Mas district, Kota Baru and Machang.

He said police believed that most buyers were drug dealers who wanted guns for protection.

Semi-automatic guns, he said, appeared to be the favourite due to their easy handling.

He did not dismiss the possibility that the falling water level in Sungai Golok had made smuggling guns across the border much easier.

"We realise that smugglers will capitalise on the river drying up to step up their activities, which include trafficking drugs and firearms.

"They might also seize the chance to set up new routes or more illegal jetties.

"We have instructed the General Operations Force to beef up their operations against such activities," he said.

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