Thailand police have managed to gun down a solider who killed at least 26 people and wounded 57 others in an unprecedent shooting incident in northeastern Thailand. Most of the victims got killed in a shopping mall in Nakhon Ratchasima city. Officials revealed that the rouge solider with a grudge was fatally shot by security forces on Sunday morning after an overnight standoff.
The hours-long shooting spree started at approx. 3pm local time on Saturday, when Thai solider Jakrapanth Thomma opened fire in a house before rushing to an army camp to steal the ammo and then turn the stolen Humvee towards a shopping center in Nakhon Ratchasima, about 250km from the capital Bangkok.
Thomma shot his commanding officer, Colonel Anantharot Krasae before stealing an assault weapon and ammunition from the army depot in the area. The shooter then fled the base to target civilians in Terminal 21 shopping centre. Upon reaching the mall, he sprayed round of ammo killing at least 26 people including a 13-year old boy, youngest among the victims and wounded 57 others. He published written messages on his Facebook account before his account was cut off by the authorities. In a video later reproduced by media outlets, Jakrapanth said, “I’m tired. I’m too tired to move my finger anymore,” as he pointed towards his index finger while holding the weapon.
His other posts read, “Should I surrender?” and “Three bodies were for revenge, the rest were self-defense”. The shooting was followed by a rampage where people were seen running for their lives as the police and army took positions to rescue the public in a standoff that continued for over 12-hour. The shooter stayed in the mall overnight before the police neutralized on Sunday. The gunfire exchanges continued till the dawn, hours after Thai security personnel decided to confront him face to face as they rescued scores of shoppers held under abduction. A video surfacing on social media showed the snipers positioned on elevated walkways to aim the gunman as heavy gunfire echoed in the center.
Evacuees recounted the ordeal on Saturday as a busy shopping center on its routine course took a plunge into a deadliest day for the shopkeepers and shoppers.
“It was like a dream … I’m grateful I survived,” Sottiyanee Unchalee, 48, remembering the horrific happening, told AFP news agency, explaining how she hid in the toilet of a gym after hearing the shots of gun.
Filipino teacher Aldrin Baliquing said he was rushed into a storeroom by the sales staff as the shooting began. “We were there for six grueling hors… I’m in shock,” he said.
Frightened shoppers at the nightmarish site sent messages to the friends and family from storerooms, changerooms, toilets, and under tables hideouts as they prayed to escape the bullets. Witnesses recorded that police didn’t respond on time and it took a long time before they were eventually rescued.
“It was frightening because I could hear the occasional gunshot … we waited a long time for the police to come and help us, many hours,” Suvanarat Jirattanasakul, a survivor of the attack, said.
Another shopper talking to a local television, Amarin TV said the gunman was taking the headshots and he saw his colleague killed at the site.
“I heard so many gunshots. He was shooting everywhere and his shots were very precise,” said the man, identified as Diaw.
Thairath news published security camera footage of the solider in the mall.
“It was total panic, it was like a zombie movie,” Chanatip Somsakul, 33, said of his escape with his wife and three-year-old daughter. People jumped on motorbikes and ran in all directions.”
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha confirmed the death toll and the neutralizing of the shooter in a presser on Sunday and announced that the government would bear the costs for funerals of the dead, compensate their families and will facilitate those wounded in the shooting.
Chan-ocha said that the personal dispute pertaining to the sale of a house may have triggered the shooting but the exact motive is yet to be determined.
“They negotiated a home sale deal and had an argument about the payments involved. They were fighting for three days. No one thought it would escalate,” Chan-ocha said. The Premier explained that shooter had overpowered the astounded and out of sorts security at the barrack’s arsenal.
“This was not carelessness. We don’t leave the arsenal depot alone – we had people guarding it.”