A soldier killed at least 29 people and wounded 57 in a massacre at four locations in the Thai city of Nakhon Ratchasima, before being killed by police.
Most of the victims were killed in the Terminal 21 shopping mall, where the sniper, armed with a rifle and ammunition stolen from his military base, resisted the police siege all night.
The massacre began at 3 pm on Saturday (8), when the soldier opened fire on a house. From there he went to a military base and to the mall, where he shot passers-by as he entered the scene.
The soldier, identified as Jakrapanth Thomma, 32, was killed by security forces at dawn on Sunday (9), in the basement of the mall.
“It was a fight over the negotiation of selling a house,” said Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.
According to the police, the shooter fell out with a relative of his commander over the sale of the property. The commander was one of the victims.
Hours before the attack was launched, the military had posted on Facebook criticisms of “greedy people who take advantage of others”. “Do they think they will be able to spend the money in hell?”
After the attack started, he wrote on the social network: “Death is inevitable for everyone” and said he had cramps in his fingers. “Should I give up?” After that, Facebook blocked his account. It was the worst massacre in the history of Thailand.
Prime Minister Prayuth, who was part of the military dictatorship that ruled Thailand, received harsh criticism for his reaction to the massacre.
When visiting the crime scene, he waved, smiled and made a heart sign with his fingers. The hashtag #RIPPrayuth (rest in peace Prayuth, rest in peace) was among the hot topics on Twitter.
“If you are kind like the Thais, you should respect the relatives of the dead in a calm and sorry way,” said Jirayu Houngsub, an opposition member of Parliament.
At a morgue in Nakhon Ratchasima, Ratchanon Karnchanamethee’s family, 13, sobbed during the identification of his body.
“He’s my only son. He hasn’t even had dinner yet, ”said his father, Natthawut Karnchanamethee. “I let him do what he wanted, I just wanted him to be a good person.”
Helped by police and soldiers, hundreds of people fled the mall during the 12-hour siege.
Crouched or crawling, they escaped in small groups, exhausted and stunned. “It was very scary, because you could hear the shots. We waited many hours for the police to arrive, ”said Suvanarat Jirattanasakul, 27, in a shaky voice.
Another survivor told Amarin TV that the sniper was aiming at people’s heads and that a colleague died on the spot. Images from the mall’s CCTV show the sniper dressed in black and wearing a mask, with the gun slung over his shoulder.
The soldier served at a base 250 kilometers from the Thai capital, Bangkok. He was an expert sniper and took several courses on ambushing.
He stole the gun and ammunition used in the massacre at the depot at the military base where he served. “He attacked a weapons depot guard, who died later, and stole an official jeep, an HK33 rifle and ammunition,” said military commander Thanya Kiatsarn.
On Sunday (9), thousands of people with candles participated in a vigil in the city. Monks said prayers and people placed white flowers on a statue of a local heroine, Thao Suranari.