Written by Charlotte Powers
A shooting spree in the Thai city of Nakhon Ratchasima, commonly known as Korat, has left 29 dead and another 58 injured. The shooting occurred over the course of 18 hours on Feb. 8 and 9. The perpetrator of the violence was reported to be a soldier in Thailand’s army. The attack does not appear to have been politically motivated.
The violence began on the Suatham Phithak military base, where the shooter was to have a meeting with his commanding officer, Colonel Anantharot Krasae, regarding a “land-selling commision fee,” according to CNN. The meeting quickly went south when the shooter killed Krasae as well as Krasae’s mother-in-law, Anong Mitchan. The shooter then stole several assault rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition from the base before escaping in a stolen humvee.
The shooter proceeded to the Terminal 21 shopping center in Korat, where he indiscriminately fired into the crowd. The shooter made his way to the fourth floor of the shopping center, where he reportedly took hostages and posted several updates to his Facebook profile. Facebook quickly responded by deleting the shooter’s posts and profile.
Over the next several hours, more bursts of gunfire were heard coming from the Terminal 21 shopping center. Thai police had sectioned off a two kilometer radius around the shopping center as they waited for military reinforcements to arrive.
At one point during the standoff, police brought the shooter’s mother to the shopping center in an attempt to de-escalate the situation. However, she was never able to make it into the mall. She stated that her son had depression and a bad temper, and claimed that she did not see a point in trying to talk him down.
More than five hours after the initial attack in Terminal 21, the police had cleared the bottom three floors of the shopping center. The army then issued a statement requesting news outlets to stop coverage of police operations, as they feared the shooter was watching the reporting.
Throughout the night, sporadic bursts of gunfire were heard coming from Terminal 21, as special operations forces entered the building to confront the gunman. At 9 a.m., police announced that they had killed the gunman.
This massacre, perpetrated by a highly trained soldier, has opened a discussion in Thailand about abuses that exist within the military and about the wider role that the military plays in Thai society. Thailand’s commander-in-chief of the army, General Apirat Kongsompong, held a press conference on Tuesday, Feb. 11, where he promised an “overhaul of the army.”
During his press conference, General Kongsompong revealed that the shooter had been mistreated by his commanding officer in the past, and that the issue of superior officers abusing their subordinates was widespread in the Thai army. Kongsompong announced that he would be creating a channel of communication where members of the army could report abuses by their commanding officers directly to Kongsompong himself. Kongsompong hopes that this solution will help prevent other abused soldiers from resorting to violence.