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Tonga is an archipelago of more than 170 islands in the South Pacific Ocean. The country gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1970.1 Small arms, light weapons and ammunition proliferation is not seen as a direct or immediate threat in Tonga. Firearms are rarely involved in criminal activity. Being relatively isolated, the country is not affected by transnational crime, such as drug and human trafficking and large illicit shipments. Arms trafficking could, however, increase the risk of arms proliferation due to the limited physical and human capacity of customs and border security in monitoring the entire territory of the islands – scattered over 700,000 km2.2

Australia and New Zealand have provided Tonga with financial and technical support aimed at police reinforcement, defence capacity building and personnel training – with a view to controlling arms imports. New Zealand also assisted with the establishment of a central armoury.3 The country’s guiding gun control legislation includes the Arms and Ammunition Act of 1968.4 Tonga’s police force is responsible for enforcing and administering the Act. In 2020, the renewed Tonga Police Corporate Plan was established, which focuses on, among other things, the detection and reduction of flows of illicit firearms, ammunition and explosives.5


1 “Tonga Country Profile,” BBC News, January 17, 2022,

2 Kerry Maze and Yvette Issar, International Assistance for Implementing the UN Programme of Action on the Illicit Trade in SALW in All Its Aspect Case Study of the South Pacific (Geneva: UN Institute for Disarmament Research, 2009),

3 Ibid.

4 Philip Alpers and Marcus Wilson, Tonga – Gun Facts, Figures and the Law (, Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, 2022),

5 “Corporate Plan & Budget 2020/21 – 2022/23,” Tonga Police, 2020,

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Map of Tonga

Further information

Accidental explosions

Since the Small Arms Survey began collecting data in 1979, no accidental explosions have been reported in Tonga.

Source: “Unplanned Explosions at Munitions Sites (UEMS) Database,” Small Arms Survey, updated December 15, 2021,

Cases of diversion

Insufficient information on cases of diversion in Tonga.


Insufficient information on the disposal of ammunition in Tonga.


To further enhance safe and secure ammunition management, the following needs have been identified for Tonga (as of 2009):

  • Reinforcement of the legislative framework for dealing with small arms and light weapons;
  • Strengthening of the physical infrastructure;
  • Building the capacity of the police force;
  • Training for police and defence officers on addressing issues related to small arms and light weapons; and
  • Training for armourers, particularly with respect to record-keeping, registration and data management.

Source: Maze and Issar, International Assistance for Implementing the UN Programme of Action.

Published Date: Monday 21 of August 2023