Upset over land deal, Thai soldier kills at least 26 people
Thai soldier kills at least 26 but others escape thanks to social media which allowed them to trace his movements
NAKHON RATCHASIMA, THAILAND: The Thai soldier who killed at least 26 people, most of them in a shopping mall in the north-east of the country, was angry over a land deal involving a relative of his commanding officer, officials said yesterday.
Thai security forces shot and killed the rogue soldier after an overnight stand-off at the Terminal 21 shopping centre in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima, where most of the victims of the massacre were killed.
He drove to the mall in a stolen Humvee and was armed with an assault weapon and ammunition stolen from the army base's arsenal, an official said.
He initially posted written messages on Facebook during the attack before his account was shut down by the company.
"It was a personal conflict... over a house deal," Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said yesterday from Nakhon Ratchasima after travelling there to meet with wounded survivors. He added that the conflict was with a relative of the soldier's commanding officer.
Police named the shooter as 32-year-old Jakrapanth Thomma. He reportedly worked at an army base close to Nakhon Ratchasima, which is about 250km from the capital Bangkok.
He was a sharpshooter and took many special courses on attacking, including planning ambushes, army sources said, and Thai media reported he often posted photos of weapons on social media.
The killings began at around 3pm (4pm Singapore time) on Saturday when the soldier opened fire in a house before moving to an army camp and then to the mall.
The soldier's commanding officer was one of the people reportedly killed before the soldier moved on to the mall.
He swaggered through the mall, a machine gun slung over his shoulder, helmet on and in combat gear in full view of closed-circuit television cameras.
In a fourth-floor toilet of the mall, shoppers jammed cubicle doors against the entrance to keep him out, tracing his movements through fragments of CCTV footage passed on by friends on the outside.
Barricaded in the women's toilet with a few dozen others, Mr Chanathip Somsakul, a 33-year-old music teacher, and his wife pored through social media and made frantic calls to friends and family as their daughter Chopin sat watchfully on a ledge.
"A friend who works at the mall was talking to a guy in the CCTV control room... he gave us updates on the location of the gunman," Mr Chanathip said
Those details shared over messaging apps may have saved the lives of Mr Chanathip, his family and the 20 to 30 others inside. - REUTERS, AFP