Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 September 2020

Thai shooter's motive was 'personal problem' over house sale

Thailand’s prime minister offered the first official motive for the rampage

A Thai soldier who shot and killed at least 26 people at a shopping centre in a north-eastern city started his rampage because of a debt dispute, the country’s prime minister said on Sunday.

The gunman was shot dead by the military after a 17-hour manhunt in which he killed security forces and civilians, the youngest a boy aged 13.

The shootout that led to his death prompted terrifying dashes for exits at the Terminal 21 shopping centre in Nakhon Ratchasima, also known as Korat.

“It is unprecedented in Thailand, and I want this to be the last time this crisis happens,” he said outside a hospital where victims were being treated.

At least two were undergoing brain surgery.

Mr Prayut, a former army chief, blamed a “personal problem” over the sale of a house for the soldier’s rampage, which began on Saturday afternoon near an army barracks and was for several hours relayed by the gunman via Facebook posts.

The attacker, a junior army officer identified as Sergeant-Major Jakrapanth Thomma, used a stolen M60 machinegun and rifles from one of Thailand’s largest barracks, as well as a military Humvee, to carry out the attack.

Mr Prayut said he overpowered security at the barracks’ arsenal.

“This was not carelessness. We don’t leave the arsenal depot alone – we had people guarding it.”

Hours before the attack began on Saturday, he had posted on Facebook denouncing greedy people who took advantage of others. “Do they think they can spend the money in hell?”

After the attack began, he posted: “Death is inevitable for everyone” and said his fingers were cramping. Facebook then cut off his account.

“There is no place on Facebook for people who commit this kind of atrocity, nor do we allow people to praise or support this attack,” a representative of the company said in a statement.

CCTV footage from inside the mall posted on social media showed the gunman dressed in black and wearing a mask, his gun slung over his shoulder with no sign of other people around.

Mass shootings are rare in the South-east Asian country other than in the far south, where a decades-old insurgency persists.

Gun violence is not unheard of in Thailand. Firearms can be obtained legally, and many Thais own guns.

The incident in Korat occurred only a month after another high-profile mall shooting, in the central Thai city of Lopburi. In that case, a masked gunman carrying a handgun with a silencer killed three people, including a 2-year-old boy, and wounded four others as he robbed a jewellery shop. A suspect, a school director, was arrested less than two weeks later and reportedly confessed, saying he did not mean to shoot anyone.

Updated: February 9, 2020 03:05 PM

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