BANGKOK, Thailand — In an effort to better combat crime in Thailand, the government has begun distributing 55,150 newly-purchased pistols to address the problem of shortage of firearms among its police officers.

According to Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, who is in charge of internal security and the police, crime was not only rising in Thailand but also came in different forms and severe intensity.

“That makes it increasingly important to equip the police to fight criminals. With these 55,150 new guns, I believe that the police performance in fighting crime and in protecting people’s lives and belongings will be improved, ” he was quoted as saying by the local media recently.

Prawit, who is also the Defence Minister, presided over a ceremony to hand over the Sig Sauer P320 SP semi-automatic pistols to 22 agencies under the Royal Thai Police (RTP) to be distributed to every police station.

The police, according to him, had long faced a shortage of handguns, with those owned by the police officers being old and outdated, which increases the risk of officers being harmed or killed during an encounter with armed criminals.

Due to this concern, he said, the government approved a police proposal to equip their men with new and modern handguns, with all police stations receiving 60 of the new pistols to be shared among all officers.

The police-ordered Sig Sauer handguns will be sold to the officers under a “welfare gun” project at 23,890 Baht (about RM3,000). They cost far below the market price.

The decision to supply the pistols was to ensure that the officers could own a quality weapon.

Thai police officers are not provided with pistols but instead are required to purchase the firearms which they often pay off through deductions from their salary.