Army chief: Rogue shooter 'no soldier'

Army chief: Rogue shooter 'no soldier'

'When he pulled the trigger, he became a criminal'

Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong during his press conference at Royal Thai Army headquarters in Bangkok on Tuesday. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)
Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong during his press conference at Royal Thai Army headquarters in Bangkok on Tuesday. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)

Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong has apologised for a soldier's murderous rampage on Saturday, and said the gunman was no longer a soldier from the moment he first pulled the trigger.

At Royal Thai Army headquarters on Tuesday, an emotional Gen Apirat offered an apology and condolences for the damage caused by one of his men.

"As the commander of the army, I apologise and I am wholeheartedly sorry that the man behind the incident was a soldier," he  said, referring to Sgt Maj 1st Class Jakrapanth Thomma, the 32-year-old mass-shooter.

"I extend my condolences to the relatives of the slain victims."

Thirty people were killed, and 58 other people suffered wounds. The gunman was later killed by police commandos.

The army chief recounted the chronology of the shooting spree in Muang district of Nakhon Ratchasima.

He said the murderer was a soldier served with an ammunition battalion of the 2nd Army Support Command in the northeastern province.

Gen Apirat said the shooter used his personal weapon to kill people he had a conflict with at their residence.

The man then drove his vehicle to the armoury at Suranaree camp, threatened the guard and stole more weapons, including an assault rifle which he used to kill the guard.

He also stole an army patrol vehicle which he crashed it into an arsenal to steal more ammunition before heading for Terminal 21 mall.

"The moment he pulled the trigger he became a criminal, not a soldier anymore," Gen Apirat said.

Gen Apirat said he would take all the blame for what happened. He asked people not to blame the whole army, the military was doing its best to ensure national security and help victims of disasters.

He tried to hold back tears as he mentioned the people killed during the rampage and asked the public not to blame the whole military.

"There are people who criticise the army, I urge them not to blame the army... because the army is a sacred organisation," adding "blame me - General Apirat".

The army chief admitted the shooter was maltreated by his supervisor and said he had already terminated many unsound “welfare” projects, some of which involved middlemen.

He said he had opened a channel where lower ranks could file complaints against their supervisors directly to him. This complaint channel would be permanent, he said.

There would be many reshuffles and transfers to inactive posts from now until April, he said.

Gen Apirat said he had no intention of resigning from his post as army commander-in-chief.  He is due to retire in September.



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