Thai Army Chief Apirat Kongsompong told reporters on Tuesday that the suspect behind the past weekend’s mass shooting that left 30 people dead and over 50 more wounded was “not an army officer.”
“The minute he [opened fire] on civilians he became a criminal and was a soldier no more,” Apirat said.
Apirat added that he would not resign despite calls for him to do so. Rather, he would stay on until the completion of his tenure later this year and try to restore trust in the armed forces.
“Do not blame the army. If you need to blame someone, blame me. I accept all criticisms and thoughts because I am the commanding officer of the army,” he said.
According to the army chief, the suspect had an argument with his commanding officer before the shootings over a failed land deal.
Apirat said that the army was investigating the nature of the deal and would reveal more at a later date. Thai media reported that the commander may have been trying to sell government land to his subordinates, including the gunman, and keeping the proceeds for himself.
The Army Chief also said that safety protocols around armouries were “up to standards.”
“We will take a look in the coming days to see how we can improve the situation but right now, I guarantee that the safety protocols are up to standards.”
The gunman killed his commanding officer on Saturday before killing a guard at an armoury and stealing high-powered assault rifles.