The gunman behind a mass shooting in the North-Eastern Province of Nakhon Ratchasima is dead after a 15-hour standoff with security forces, police and military officials said on Sunday.
The gunman, identified as a disaffected soldier, had holed up inside a mall in the Korat city center for most of Saturday night and Sunday morning before being shot and killed, according to Police Region 3 Commander Poonsap Prasertsak.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha and several members of the cabinet flew from Bangkok to Korat to visit with victims and their families on Sunday morning.
“I want to thank the security forces, the doctors and the nurses and everyone else who helped bring the situation to a close,” the prime minister said at a press conference.
“This is an unprecedented situation…we have to find out how things turned out to be this violent,” he said.
According to the Prime Minister, 27 people died including the gunman with 57 more injured. Some are still in critical condition.
A night of violence
The gunman, a military officer at a nearby military camp, killed his commanding officer and several others on Saturday afternoon after a disagreement. The suspect then stole weapons and ammunition and a military vehicle before driving into the Nakhon Ratchasima city centre.
There, the gunman opened fire on several bystanders before taking shelter in the Terminal 21 shopping mall.
Having taken hostages and using his military training, the suspect managed to hold off security forces for hours.
A quick resolution that was hoped for initially faded as the evening turned into night and night into morning.
Attempts to apprehend him were met with force and the gunman tried to escape several times with each separate incident resulting in loud exchanges of gunfire as heard by reporters from outside the mall.
At least three security officials were injured in the escape attempts, one critically.
The last attempt to escape occurred around 9 am local time with security forces killing the gunman in the shootout.
“We offer our sincere condolences to the family of those who was injured and lost their lives,” Thanya Kiathisarn, region 2 Army Commander told reporters Sunday morning. “I can confirm that the shooter is dead.”
A failure of media
Many Thai citizens expressed their disgust on social media at the way the shootings were portrayed on mainstream media and on social media.
Bloody scenes and pictures of the deceased were shared widely both by individuals and media organizations.
As of Sunday morning, the hashtag #แบนช่องone (#BanChannelOne) was trending, a criticism of the channel’s alleged sensationalism and live broadcasting of security forces while they were preparing to rescue hostages and confront the gunman.
Channel One was not the only media organization to be singled out for criticism.
The shooter, whom Thai Enquirer will not identify out of respect for victims, was actively posting on social media before Facebook disabled his account. We will not publish or reproduce those posts either.
For more on media, read our feature here.
(Additional reporting by Erich Parpart)