Killing spree a red flag

Killing spree a red flag

The whole nation was shocked and saddened by the heinous shooting spree at a nursery in Nong Bua Lam Phu province yesterday. The nature of the crime inflicted on pre-school children and strangers seems inexplicable and especially callous.

Our deepest condolences go out to the bereaved families of the 37 victims. We also send our prayers and wishes to the 10 injured people who are now in intensive care units. We hope they all make speedy recoveries.

The carnage meted out yesterday is more than just a despicable crime, however. It is another red flag that the risk of mass shooting sprees -- once believed limited to other countries and foreign news reports -- is closer to home than we would like to believe.

The mass shooting in northeastern Thailand brings back memories of the carnage that took place in Nakhon Ratchasima two years ago. Indeed, the two mass murders share some similarities. Apart from both being shockingly cold-blooded in nature, the perpetrators were low-ranking state security personnel who were familiar with using firearms.

Both men also had serious psychological and emotional problems. The first was a rank-and-file soldier who was in financial dire straits and had just quarrelled with one of his superiors. The former policeman responsible for yesterday's shooting had also held a low rank and had just been fired from the Royal Thai Police (RTP) for using illegal drugs. He was about to face a narcotics charge.

Both cases beg questions about the recruitment process employed by the army and the Royal Thai Police (RTP).

It will take days for police investigators to wrap up the latest case to find out the man's real motivation. At this stage, police have concluded drug abuse and mental stress were likely the main factors that drove Pol Capt Panya Khamlarb to kill scores of pre-school kids and strangers -- seemingly at random -- before turning the gun on his wife, their young son and finally himself.

The RTP will also, of course, need to check his drug abuse record. The public will demand to know why he chose a nursery centre, of all places. Above all, people will want to know how the RTP hired this man, who reportedly admitted to his superior that he had been taking narcotics since he was a teenager. Moreover, he had been punished for bad behaviour on several occasions.

Society needs to know how the police deal with the mental health issues their staff face. The suicide rate among police is high, with 443 taking their own lives from 2008-2021.

It will take months or even years for the survivors and bereaved families to cope with the pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by yesterday's shooting. At this point, psychologists from the Ministry of Public Health must be quick to provide them and other community residents with counselling and long-term monitoring.

The Ministry of Digital Economy and Society and the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) must also strictly prevent the media from showing graphic images of the crime scene.

Above all, the government and society must accept the harsh reality that we could see copycats and other similar incidents. The government needs to find measures to monitor potential risks such as improving its gun control policy and arming staff and security personnel with the kind of safety information and protection they need. We can only pray it won't be needed.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

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