Asia

After Massacre, Thai Army Chief Admits Problems With Treatment of Soldiers

By Thai PBS 11 February 2020

Thai army commander-in-chief General Apirat Kongsompong confirmed on Tuesday morning that a failed land deal prompted army Sergeant Major Jakrapanth Thomma to go on a shooting rampage that killed 30 people before he was shot dead by security forces while holed up in a shopping mall in Nakhon Ratchasima on Sunday morning.

He admitted that the incident reflected what he described as a problem of inadequate welfare and poor treatment of the army rank-and-file by their superiors.

Speaking at a press conference, the army chief detailed the sequence of events that led to the shooting spree and the 14-hour dramatic siege at the Terminal 21 shopping complex in downtown Nakhon Ratchasima.

He provided no details about the land deal, and said the shooting needed to be further investigated. He only said it involved Jakrapanth’s supervisor and relatives.

“It was a result of what he felt was injustice from a land deal,” he said.

Jakrapanth shot dead his commander, Colonel Ananrote Krasae, and a woman, and injured an army private following a heated argument before shooting his way into the arsenal inside the headquarters of the Battle Support Unit 2 in the northeastern province. He said Jakrapanth, who was commander of a rifle squad, took with him an assortment of weapons, including HK-22 assault rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, before starting his shooting spree while he was heading toward Terminal 21 shopping mall in a stolen army vehicle.

Trying to hold back tears and at times with his voice choked with emotion, Gen. Apirat asked the public not to criticize the army as an institution for what happened. He said the shooting rampage was an isolated incident.

“Nobody wants to see this kind of incident happen. So please don’t criticize the army or the soldiers. Direct your criticism at me, Gen. Apirat Kongsompong. I am the army commander-in-chief. I am held responsible for what happened,” he said.

“The moment he started committing a crime, he was no longer considered a soldier but a criminal,” he said of the soldier-turned-gunman.

The army has come under criticism for poor security for allowing the gunman to break into the arsenal and for ignoring the unfair treatment that the army rank-and-file receive from their commanders.

Gen. Apirat admitted that the incident was a reminder of such problems and pledged to take action to tackle them.

He also pledged to tighten security measures at all army units to prevent a repeat of the incident.

He said he decided to call the press conference in order to provide a complete picture of the whole incident following public criticism that he said was sowing discord in the society.

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