Fri. Oct 23rd, 2020

People hug each other after being rescued by Thai commandos from Terminal 21 shopping mall, where a mass shooting took place, on February 9, 2020 in the Thai northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima. (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP)

Thailand shooting victims recall their accounts of events

Terrified residents of the Thai city of Nakhon Ratchasima have been reliving their ordeal after a gunman roamed around a shopping centre on a shooting spree that killed 29 people.

Some barricaded themselves in toilets or hid under tables, frantically searching for information on mobiles.

Jakraphanth Thomma began his rampage on Saturday afternoon, but it only ended with his death 16 hours later.

A vigil for victims has been held on Sunday, with monks chanting prayers.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said the 32-year-old soldier, who had posted images during his attack on social media, appeared to have been motivated by a land dispute.

Another 57 people were injured in the incident, an “unprecedented number in Thailand”, the PM said.

What have the survivors been saying?

Jakraphanth began his attack at about 15:30 local time on Saturday (08:30 GMT) at a military camp, but it was his arrival at the Terminal 21 shopping complex that led to an indiscriminate shooting spree.

Many of the victims were killed as he arrived, some in their cars, others outside the complex. Graphic images appeared on social media.

Footage from the gunman’s attack on Saturday

Inside Terminal 21, a seven-floor complex designed on an airport theme, terrified shoppers were unsure whether to flee or hide.

Nattaya Nganiem was leaving the complex by car when she heard gunfire and saw one woman “run out from the mall hysterically”. She saw a motorcyclist dump his motorcycle and run.

One who saw the gunman, Diaw, told Amarin TV the attacker “was shooting everywhere and his shots were very precise”. He aimed at the heads of victims, Diaw said, adding that one of his colleagues was killed.

Up on the fourth floor, Chanathip Somsakul, 33, barricaded himself into the women’s toilets with dozens of others, using cubicle doors to wedge the entrance shut. They all scoured mobile devices to get information. But he said there was so much information, no-one knew what to believe.

There was a huge attendance at the vigil in Nakhon Ratchasima
There was a huge attendance at the vigil in Nakhon Ratchasima

“Everyone was terrified. A friend who works at the mall was talking to a guy in the CCTV control room… he gave us updates on the location of the gunman,” he told AFP news agency.

When police arrived at about 21:00, they left in an orderly fashion, but started running when shots rang out.

Charlie Crowson, a teacher of English who lives in Nakhon Ratchasima, told the BBC there were “bodies on the streets” of the normally peaceful city.

He said one of his girlfriend’s former students was among those killed in the attack. Jakraphanth was eventually shot dead by the security forces.

Thai father holds a portrait of his 13-year-old son, who was shot dead
Natthawut Karnchanamethee (L) mourns the loss of his son

At the city morgue on Sunday, Natthawut Karnchanamethee was mourning the loss of his 13-year-old son, Ratchanon Karnchanamethee.

“He’s my only son. I allowed him to do anything he wanted to. I never set expectations for him. I only wanted him to be a good person,” Mr Natthawut said.

At the vigil on Sunday, 13-year-old Lapasrada Khumpeepong said she and her mother had been cornered in a bathroom at the complex for five hours.

She wrote on a condolence board: “Thank you to those who sacrificed themselves to keep others alive. Without you, we would not be here today.”

What have the authorities said about the attack?

Mr Prayuth travelled to Nakhon Ratchasima, also known as Korat, to meet wounded survivors.

The PM said he believed the gunman was involved in a “personal conflict… over a house deal” that involved a relative of his commanding officer, both of whom Jakraphanth shot dead at the military base at the start of his rampage.

Map

Mr Prayuth said: “I hope this is the only one and the last incident, and that it never happens again. No-one wants this to happen. It could be because of this person’s mental health in this particular moment.”

Forensic experts continue to work at the shopping complex.

Jakraphanth served at Suatham Phithak military camp, about 250km (155 miles) from the capital, Bangkok.

Army sources said he was a sharpshooter and had taken courses on attacks, including the planning of ambushes.

He used social media heavily, including posting pictures of himself with weapons.

Jakraphanth killed another soldier as he stole a military vehicle and weapons – two rifles, one M60 machine gun and 770 rounds of ammunition – from the base.

A Facebook post before the attack read: “Rich from cheating. Taking advantage of other people. Do they think they can spend the money in hell?”

During the attack – and before his Facebook account was taken down – he wrote: “Death is inevitable for everyone.”

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