Mum's murder reveals dark side of family values

Mum's murder reveals dark side of family values

What do people do when they are 14, or 16?

Here, in Samut Prakan, at one of those dingy Eua Artorn flats for low-income earners, a 14-year-old girl convinced her 16-year-old boyfriend to kill her mother because she was "obstructing their love".

The girl's older 23-year-old brother was also stabbed several times as he tried to help his mother.

The two teenagers did not try to escape, and police found them sitting together waiting at the crime scene.

The girl confessed to having plotted the murder. She was in Matthayom 2 (Grade 8) -- a good student with a 3-plus grade average until recently when her performance sharply dropped because of the shift to online learning during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the local police.

The girl said she had planned the matricide only a day before the murder.

She also claimed that she had had mental problems because her mother often reprimanded her and never gave her emotional support when she needed it, according to news reports.

The boy, who was seen stabbing the girl's mother to death, was in Matthayom 4 (Grade 10) and also reportedly a good student, with a grade point average of 3.6.

He reportedly admitted to committing the crime because he wanted to be with his girlfriend but the girl's mother didn't want them seeing each other.

The crime, which took place last Thursday, seems to have shocked people on multiple levels.

On the surface, it is gruesome that someone could have plotted to kill her own mother, especially when that someone was only 14 years old. That the murder was successfully committed by another young teen with a knife is also horrifying.

What could have been going on in their young minds that convinced the pair that murder was the best, or only way, out of the situation?

More importantly, how could someone so young be so ready and prepared to kill?

Some people found the girl's seemingly calm and detached response following the murder of her mother disturbing.

The teen admitted her behaviour may have been caused by her state of mind but there seemed to be no remorse. Her boyfriend was apparently also calm and unrepentant.

Some people have wondered why the two teens appear to have problems with moral discernment.

On a deeper level, there is a question of whether the case is an exception to the normal or if it represents problems gnawing at our teens in general.

The case is unsettling enough to warrant comment from Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha.

The PM's Office spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana yesterday said the PM had expressed concern at the underlying psychological issues that appear to have prompted the murder which shocked the nation.

He said PM Gen Prayut recommended that teenagers find someone they can trust to offload their worries and find useful advice.

He also told state agencies to monitor youths who might be liable to commit violent offences.

As for parents, the PM's advice was to refrain from overprotecting their children.

Should parents come across any signs of abnormal behaviour or a tendency to resort to violence, they should notify the state authorities immediately.

But the problems of teen psychology, wayward behaviour or possible a decline in family values suggested after last week's murder may not be that simple.

The flaws not just of the young perpetrators but those around them could have contributed to the tragedy, so too social structures that do not favour the underprivileged.

The girl's single mother earned 10,000-20,000 baht a month as a freelance researcher, while her older brother, who quit school after Prathom 3 to help support the family, is a security guard on 13,000 baht.

Switching to online studying reportedly saw the girl flunk five subjects. What happened? What was she going through and was the family equipped with the equipment she needed? Who could they turn to for help?

Gen Prayut suggested that teenagers find someone they trust to talk to about their problems.

What if they cannot? What if resentment against one's parents is more common than people thought? Perhaps many feel it taboo to go against society's cherished filial values?

Perhaps the truth revealed, in part, by this crime, is that there is a huge disconnect between society's ideals of "family" and "parenting" and the reality of life for today's teenagers.

Atiya Achakulwisut

Columnist for the Bangkok Post

Atiya Achakulwisut is a columnist for the Bangkok Post.

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