Poor security worsened toll: PM

Poor security worsened toll: PM

Concern over arms theft, mall stand-off

Thousands of local people lit candles and pray for people killed in the shooting rampage in Muang district of Nakhon Ratchasima province on Sunday night. (Photo by Prasit Tangprasert)
Thousands of local people lit candles and pray for people killed in the shooting rampage in Muang district of Nakhon Ratchasima province on Sunday night. (Photo by Prasit Tangprasert)

Following Nakhon Ratchasima's shooting rampage, which left 30 people dead, including the gunman, and 57 others injured, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Sunday ordered a review of security measures at the military's armouries.

"All I can say is if we had fully followed [the standard security procedure], we would have been able to mitigate the degree of violence [in this incident]," said Gen Prayut after a briefing on the weekend's shooting spree.

"Even if we insisted we had completely followed a proper security procedure, the question is what more could we have done to improve the efficiency of security measures?" he said.

For example, Gen Prayut said, that the weapons were taken by the gunman after he shot and killed the officer guarding the armoury was cause for concern.

Commandos on Sunday killed Sgt Maj 1st Class Jakrapanth Thomma after he carried out a shooting rampage in Nakhon Ratchasima that left 30 of his victims dead, police said.

They said Jakrapanth had been killed at the Terminal 21 shopping mall in the northeastern province where the gunman, who earlier took hostages, was holed up for 17 hours.

Commandos from elite Thai police units killed the gunman, a police spokesman added, after an operation involving hundreds of security personnel.

National police chief Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda and Pol Lt Gen Poonsap Prasertsak, chief of the Provincial Police Region 3, confirmed on Sunday that the rogue soldier had been killed.

Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong, however, said a key mistake that could have led to the weapons being stolen was that Jakrapanth knew the people at the armoury very well and they would have not have expected untoward behaviour from him.

Gen Apirat said an urgent order has been sent out to all army units to adopt stricter security measures including that the bolt carriers of the guns in guard post armouries are removed and kept separately by the chief of the guard post.

Also under the same set of new measures, bullets and machine guns will also no longer be stored at any guard post, said Gen Apirat.

Meanwhile, Gen Prayut responded to questions asking what took authorities so long to end the stand-off delay by suggesting that the hostages and number of bystanders at the scene had forced the police to act cautiously to prevent further loss of innocent lives.

As for the motive behind the rampage, Gen Prayut said he had learned from investigators that it was a personal conflict involving a dispute over a house sale involving a relative of Jakrapanth's commanding officer, which arose three days before the shooting incident.

"They would never have thought the dispute would result in this extreme violence because he [the gunman] was normally not evil. But what he has just done is wholly evil," said Gen Prayut.

Panitan Wattanayagorn, chief of the prime minister's advisory committee on security affairs, said Thailand needed to learn lessons from this shooting spree and take on board the experiences of other countries that have suffered similar tragedies.

Among the areas that will draw scrutiny are public security standards, especially in communities and shopping malls, and weapons control, he said.

Hours before the attack began on Saturday, the gunman posted on Facebook, denouncing greedy people who took advantage of others and asking, "Do they think they can spend the money in hell?" He broadcast much of the spree on Facebook Live as well as posting frequent updates to his account which charted the attack from the army barracks in the city to the mall. Some observers are unhappy he was able to exploit the Facebook platform to draw publicity for five hours before the social media giant pulled him off air.

The bloodshed began on Saturday afternoon when Jakrapanth shot three people -- among them at least one soldier -- at a senior officer's house and then at the nearby army barracks, before driving an army vehicle to the town centre.

There the gunman used weapons stolen from the military arsenal to unleash carnage in the town centre.

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