World • 10 February, 2020

Soldier kills 29 people in Thailand shooting rampage

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A soldier went on a shooting rampage in north-eastern Thailand and held hostages in a shopping mall, killing at least 29 before himself being shot dead by security services in one of the country’s worst incidents of gun violence in recent years, FT reports.

Deputy prime minister Anutin Charnvirakul said in a Facebook post on Sunday morning that police and military forces shot and killed the gunman after they surrounded Terminal 21 mall in Nakhon Ratchasima, where he had held several people. 

Police identified the gunman as Jakrapanth Thomma, 32. Thailand’s prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha visited wounded survivors near the scene of the shooting on Sunday, where he told reporters: “It was a personal conflict . . . over a house deal.” Mr Prayuth added that the dispute was with a relative of the soldier’s commanding officer. The incident began on Saturday afternoon when the soldier opened fire in a house before moving to an army camp and then to the mall, which was full of shoppers for a three-day Buddhist holiday weekend. 

The commanding officer was one of the people killed before the soldier moved on to the shopping mall, according to Reuters and Thai media reports.

The shooter posted messages on his Facebook account during the episode. Social media posters and some mainstream media ran livestream footage from people inside the mall.

On Saturday evening, as a special forces operation was beginning to stop the shooter, Thailand’s broadcasting authority called on media organisations and individuals posting footage from the scene to stop doing so. 

Overnight, news photos from the scene showed security forces leading people to safety out of the mall. 

Facebook said it had taken down the man’s account after news of the attack emerged and had identified a short Facebook Live post by the attacker, but it did not show any violence. The US social media group said it had taken steps to prevent others from reposting the video. 

“We have removed the gunman’s presence on our services and have found no evidence that he broadcasted this violence” on Facebook Live, the company said.

“We are working around the clock to remove any violating content related to this attack.”  The mass shooting comes at a time when Thailand’s government is already the subject of public criticism for its response to the coronavirus outbreak. There have been 32 reported cases of the disease in the Southeast Asian country, which has prompted a collapse in tourist arrivals. 

Mass shootings are rare in Thailand, but guns are available on the black market. In recent years there have been several incidents of gun violence during political unrest, as well as in the south of the country where security forces are fighting a separatist insurgency. 

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