On Saturday, February 8, a Thai soldier based in Nakhon Ratchasima, a city a few hours northeast of Bangkok, killed his commanding officer, stole semiautomatic weapons, and drove to a local mall, killing at least 21.
Some 33 other people were wounded. The gunman went on a rampage at the mall, eventually taking 16 hostages. Throughout the evening and into the night, Thai security forces evacuated and sealed off the mall and surrounding area.
At the time of writing, the gunman is still at large inside the mall. The motive of the gunman is unclear, as is the status of the hostages.
“We don’t know why he did this. It appears he went mad,” said defense ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantrawanit.
The gunman livestreams the attack
As the attack unfolded, the shooter used Facebook to live stream and post updates on the killings, echoing tactics used by other mass shooters, including the Christchurch, New Zealand shooter in 2019.
Facebook took down the attacker’s page shortly after he began recording. Some of the messages posted on his page before it was taken down include, “Should I surrender?”, “Nobody can avoid death”, and “Being rich from taking advantage of others, do they think they can use money in hell?”
In a statement, a Facebook representative said, “Our hearts go out to the victims, their families and the community affected by this tragedy in Thailand. There is no place on Facebook for people who commit this kind of atrocity, nor do we allow people to praise or support this attack.”
Gun violence in Thailand
While not as prevalent as other places such as the United States or Central America, gun violence in the Southeast Asian nation is not unheard of. Thailand has some of the highest gun violence rates in Asia.
Gun ownership is high and illegal guns are easily purchased. Nevertheless, mass shootings are still extremely rare.
Nevertheless, in recent weeks the country has seen a spate of gun violence. Yesterday’s attack comes just weeks after a disgruntled school headmaster robbed a gold shop in Lopburi, another city north of Bangkok, killing a young child and two adults in the process.
The circumstances surrounding this latest shooting left locals in disbelief.
Nattaya Nganiem, a local who’d left the mall only shortly after Saturday’s shooting started, was particularly shocked by the attack.
“I can’t believe this is happening in my hometown,” she said. “I mean, this shopping mall, we go there almost every other day.”