Editorial: Thailand Has Some Tough Decisions to Make Around Teen Violence and Legal Punishment

If you have regularly read or followed our news you have likely been aware of what seems like an increasing trend of teen violence in Thailand involving deadly weapons, especially younger than sixteen years old.

It can certainly be argued that this trend has been there for some time and that the media focus on these incidents has only recently increased, but regardless nearly everyone agrees there is a real problem and that action needs to be taken.

The issue, of course, is that current Thai law doesn’t provide for treating minors as adults like many Western countries and requires primarily psychiatric care and professional evaluation for those under sixteen, even with major crimes like the Siam Paragon shooter incident committed by a fourteen-year-old boy.

Certainly, however, with what seems like a never-ending almost daily report of violent incidents by young teens around Thailand like this recent incident or this particular incident or perhaps this major one involving a young student stabbing his alleged bully to death, just to name three of many recent examples, concerns continue to rise.

As a result of the many recent incidents, especially this one in which police are alleged to have tried to cover up their teen son’s involvement in the killing of a mentally ill woman in Sa Kaeo by forcing the husband of the woman into a false confession, the top police officer in Thailand has taken notice and promised to resolve the problem.

But, how do they resolve the problem?

There are two schools of thought primarily around the spate of teen violence. One school of thought calls for harsher penalties for youth, dropping the age of charging teens for adult crimes to as low as 12. This particular school of thought is one that the Chief of Police in Thailand has proposed and certainly has its backers. This is similar to many Western countries in which certain heinous crimes, such as mass shootings or the murder of a mentally ill woman, to have any minor suspects charged and sentenced as adults at the discretion of a judge, potentially putting them in prison for life.

The other school of thought is that the problems start at home and at school and that educators and parents need to recognise bullying and environmental factors that lead to teens getting involved in crime and offer other pathways and routes. This school of thought calls not for harsher punishment of youth but more options to stop such particular crimes before they happen. This especially leans hard upon teachers to recognise and resolve bullying and to be trained in conflict resolution. It also calls for schools to involve parents more closely with troublesome children and teens.

In this school of thought, Thailand would invest much deeper in programs like sports and after school activities for youth to keep them out of crime and trouble and put significant focus in recognising and stopping bullying, to include social media. It would also aim to keep alcohol, marijuana, Kratom, vaping, and other negative influences away from teens through a variety of legislative efforts and enforcement.

Regardless of what option or road Thailand goes down, they certainly can’t keep the status quo. Not only is it costing many lives but in recent years the teen violence has started to bleed into tourist zones in popular areas like Pattaya and Phuket, which affects Thailand’s bread and butter. Numerous incidents on Pattaya Beach of teen violence have taken place in recent months and just a few days ago, although unclear if teens were involved, one ping pong grenade went off and another was found on the beach hidden in road cones. Luckily, nobody was injured.

Which of the two main schools of thought do you think Thailand should follow or even do a combination of both? Or, do you have other ideas? Tell us at [email protected].

The original version of this article appeared on our sister website, The Pattaya News, owned by our parent company TPN media.

Goongnang Suksawat
Goong Nang is a News Translator who has worked professionally for multiple news organizations in Thailand for many years and has worked with The Pattaya News for more than four years. Specializes primarily in local news for Phuket, Pattaya, and also some national news, with emphasis on translation between Thai to English and working as an intermediary between reporters and English-speaking writers. Originally from Nakhon Si Thammarat, but lives in Phuket and Krabi except when commuting between the three.