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Armed Violence and Guns in South East Asia

Among the eleven crowded states of South East Asia, firearm control ranges from total (CambodiaVietnam) to restrictive (BruneiIndonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Timor-LesteLaosMyanmarPhilippinesThailand). In Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand gun crime can attract the death penalty.1

Estimated rates of civilian gun possession range from 0.3 per 100,000 people in Timor-Leste, to 0.5 in Indonesia and Singapore, with a high of 15.6 in Thailand.2

As many as 610,000 unregistered, or ‘loose’ firearms are said to be in private hands in the Philippines.3

Estimates place 9,690 small arms as being the property of the defence forces in Brunei, 503,500 in Myanmar,4 close to a million in Indonesia,5 close to 2 million in Thailand,4 and approximately 8 million in Vietnam – the world’s third largest military stockpile, largely a remnant of war.5

Public health reporting of gun death data is uncommon across South East Asia, and very rare in Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Vietnam. Firearm homicide had risen in the Philippines in the early 2000s, but has since fallen.6 7 Firearm homicide in Cambodia has also fallen since the late 90s.8 Thailand reports the highest gun homicide rate in all of Asia in the mid 90s.9 Gun homicides in Singapore and Brunei are practically nonexistent.10 11

Small arms are lawfully manufactured in Cambodia,12 Indonesia,13 Malaysia,14 Myanmar,15 Thailand16 and Singapore.17 The manufacture under licence is also permitted in Brunei,18 19 Laos,20 and Vietnam,19 but is not conducted in practice. Illicit craft production is also common across the sub-region, notably in the Philippines.21

South East Asia is a crossroads for arms smuggling and trafficking.22 23 24 25 Singapore plays down the problem,19 while Thailand is seen as the region’s principal arms black market, followed by Cambodia and Vietnam.26

In terms of international participation, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam take an active role in international initiatives to curb the proliferation of small arms.27 28 29 30 Brunei, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Timor-Leste do not. Cambodia, Malaysia, and the Philippines are the only countries in the region to have signed, bu not yet ratified, the Arms Trade Treaty.31

For more information on armed violence and gun control law in each country of South East Asia, and for references to support the assertions made in the summary above, use the search tools in the left hand column.

Short References

1.

Kramer, Katherine.2001.‘Penalty Comparison.’ Legal Controls on Small Arms and Light Weapons in South East Asia.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies and Nonviolence International South East Asia,1 July. (Q83)Full Citation

2.

Karp, Aaron.2007.‘Completing the Count: Civilian firearms - Annexe online.’ Small Arms Survey 2007: Guns and the City.Cambridge:Cambridge University Press,27 August. (Q5)Full Citation

3.

Schroeder, Matt.2013.‘Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Philippines.’ Small Arms Survey 2013: Everyday Dangers.Cambridge:Cambridge University Press and the Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,2 July. (Q8491)Full Citation

4.

Karp, Aaron.2006.‘Trickle and Torrent: State stockpiles.’ Small Arms Survey 2006: Unfinished Business.Oxford:Oxford University Press,1 July. (Q6)Full Citation

5.

Karp, Aaron.2013.‘Table 4: Twenty Largest Military Small Arms Inventories.’ Armed Actors - Data Sources and the Estimation of Military-Owned Small Arms.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,1 September. (Q8186)Full Citation

6.

UNODC.2013.‘Homicide in 207 Countries - Philippines.’ Global Study on Homicide 2011: Trends, Context, Data.Vienna:United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,26 June. (Q6315)Full Citation

7.

UNODC.2005.‘Recorded Homicide and Firearm Homicide in 53 Countries, Completed or Attempted.’ Eighth United Nations Survey of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems (2001-2002).Vienna:United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,15 April. (Q1077)Full Citation

8.

UNODC.2013.‘Homicide in 207 Countries - Cambodia.’ Global Study on Homicide 2011: Trends, Context, Data.Vienna:United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,26 June. (Q6309)Full Citation

9.

Jackson, Thomas.2005.‘Global Gun Deaths.’ NISAT Firearm Mortality Database 2005.Oslo:Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transfers,1 January. (Q12)Full Citation

10.

UNODC.2008.‘Recorded Intentional Homicide, Completed.’ Tenth United Nations Survey of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems (2005-2006).Vienna:United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,10 December. (Q10)Full Citation

11.

UNODC.2013.‘Homicide in 207 Countries - Brunei.’ Global Study on Homicide 2011: Trends, Context, Data.Vienna:United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,26 June. (Q6317)Full Citation

12.

Cambodia.2005.‘Article 18.’ Law on the Management of Weapons, Explosives and Ammunition (2005).Phnom Penh:National Assembly,26 April. (Q829)Full Citation

13.

Batchelor, Peter.2001.‘Small Arms, Big Business: Products and Producers.’ Small Arms Survey 2001: Profiling the Problem.Oxford:Oxford University Press,1 July. (Q861)Full Citation

14.

Malaysia.1960.‘No Person to Manufacture Arms or Ammunition Without Licence.’ Laws of Malaysia, Act 206, Arms Act 1960 [Act as of January 2006].Kuala Lumpur:The Commissioner of Law Revision, Malaysia,1 January. (Q5133)Full Citation

15.

Capie, David.2002.‘ASEAN country studies -- Myanmar.’ Small Arms Production and Transfers in South East Asia.Canberra:Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University,1 January. (Q1361)Full Citation

16.

Capie, David.2002.‘ASEAN country studies: Thailand.’ Small Arms Production and Transfers in South East Asia.Canberra:Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University,1 January. (Q1257)Full Citation

17.

Singapore.2003.‘Licences Required in Respect of Guns, Arms, Explosives, etc..’ Arms and Explosives Act 2003 (Chapter 13) [Revised Edition with Amendments to 2010].Singapore:Parliament of Singapore,21 March. (Q1115)Full Citation

18.

Brunei.1928.‘Licence to Manufacture etc. Guns and Arms.’ Arms and Explosives Act (Chapter 58) Arms and Explosives Rules, Revised Edition 2002.Brunei:Sultan of Brunei,26 November. (Q5115)Full Citation

19.

United Nations.1999.‘Analysis of Country Responses.’ United Nations International Study on Firearm Regulation.Vienna:UN Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Division,30 August. (Q1)Full Citation

20.

Capie, David.2002.‘ASEAN country studies: Lao People's Democratic Republic.’ Small Arms Production and Transfers in South East Asia.Canberra:Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University,1 January. (Q1032)Full Citation

21.

Small Arms Survey.2001.‘Illicit Production – South East Asia.’ Small Arms Survey 2001: Profiling the Problem.Oxford:Oxford University Press,1 July. (Q1062)Full Citation

22.

Bedeski, Robert, Andrew Andersen and Santo Darmosumarto.1998.‘Major Recipients of Small Arms in the Area.’ Small Arms Trade and Proliferation in Southeast Asia.Vancouver:Institute of International Relations, University of British Columbia,1 September. (Q1366)Full Citation

23.

Bedeski, Robert, Andrew Andersen and Santo Darmosumarto.1998.‘Major Recipients of Small Arms in the Area.’ Small Arms Trade and Proliferation in Southeast Asia.Vancouver:Institute of International Relations, University of British Columbia,1 September. (Q1293)Full Citation

24.

Bedeski, Robert, Andrew Andersen and Santo Darmosumarto.1998.‘Major Recipients of Small Arms in the Area.’ Small Arms Trade and Proliferation in Southeast Asia.Vancouver:Institute of International Relations, University of British Columbia,1 September. (Q1066)Full Citation

25.

Bedeski, Robert, Andrew Andersen and Santo Darmosumarto.1998.‘Major Recipients of Small Arms in the Area.’ Small Arms Trade and Proliferation in Southeast Asia.Vancouver:Institute of International Relations, University of British Columbia,1 September. (Q832)Full Citation

26.

Small Arms Survey.2002.‘Black Market Transfers.’ Small Arms Survey 2002: Counting the Human Cost.Oxford:Oxford University Press,14 July. (Q1264)Full Citation

27.

Parker, Sarah and Katherine Green.2012.‘Findings - Table 3: Reporting States by Rank and Score.’ The Programme of Action Implementation Monitor (Phase 1): Assessing Reported Progress.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,1 August. (Q8752)Full Citation

28.

Parker, Sarah and Katherine Green.2012.‘What do the PoAIM Scores Represent? How Should the PoAIM Scores Be Interpreted?.’ The Programme of Action Implementation Monitor (Phase 1): Assessing Reported Progress.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,1 August. (Q8753)Full Citation

29.

Parker, Sarah and Katherine Green.2012.‘Point Allocation System.’ The Programme of Action Implementation Monitor (Phase 1): Assessing Reported Progress.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,1 August. (Q8754)Full Citation

30.

Parker, Sarah and Katherine Green.2012.‘Introduction.’ The Programme of Action Implementation Monitor (Phase 1): Assessing Reported Progress.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,1 August. (Q8755)Full Citation

31.

UNODA.2013.‘Towards Entry Into Force.’ Arms Trade Treaty.New York NY:United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs,2 April. (Q7226)Full Citation