Army security needs review

Army security needs review

The nation is mourning the deaths of the many innocent people who were killed in Saturday's shooting rampage by a non-commissioned army officer in the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima.

Most of those killed were shoppers at the Terminal 21 mall, which was laid siege to by Sgt Maj 1st Class Jakrapanth Thomma who randomly opened fire and took many hostages during the 17-hour frenzy. Before he set off for the mall, he shot dead his supervisor, his mother-in-law and another victim. He fled in an army vehicle loaded with guns and ammunition, after shooting and killing the soldier guarding the armoury.

Jakrapanth, who was known to be a sharpshooter at the Surathampithak army camp, streamed much of the violence on Facebook Live, as well as making a number of posts on his home page as he ran amok. Some of his messages indicated his deep anger towards the slain commander who became his first victim. Jakrapanth accused his commander, Col Anantaroj Krasae, of cheating him out of commission money, amounting to 50,000 baht, over a house sale.

Jakrapanth was killed many hours later after the shocking massacre by security forces but criticism has begun to mount at how he managed to get such a large stash of weapons in the first place.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Sunday ordered a review of security measures at the military's armouries after the ease with which the 32-year-old gunman secured his arsenal became so apparent. This contradicted the prime minister's assertion at a press conference earlier that day that the security measures at such armouries were "already good".

"If it was inefficient, the army would not have lasted for hundreds of years," Gen Prayut said at the press conference.

The excuse given by army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong that Jakrapanth was able to easily access the weapons as he "knew the people at the armoury very well and they would have not have expected untoward behaviour from him", is not acceptable. It simply highlights that the problem of overly-lenient security measures in army camps is a very real one.

The premier was also quick to conclude that the mass shooting was entirely the result of a personal conflict between the soldier and his supervisor. That the gunman resorted not only to murder but also to indiscriminate slaughter, however, makes this reasoning dubious.

Rushing to conclude that revenge was the only motive is folly and would ignore many of the underlying factors in this tragic case, particularly regarding the problem of abuse of power in the army between those in the higher echelons and their subordinates. It is well known that some senior military officers frequently take advantage of their rank and status.

The authorities should not be complacent and close this case without first taking a forensic look at all aspects of the army from top to bottom that may have contributed to Jakrapanth's state of mind.

The process must also be transparent and all the findings presented to the public. Such a horrendous tragedy must never allowed to happen again.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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