This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.
Over the weekend, an unprecedented act of violence descended upon Thailand, leaving grieving masses shocked in its wake. The country saw the worst mass shooting in its history in the hands of a soldier who killed at least 29 people and wounded over 50 others using an assault rifle in a shopping mall on Saturday.
At 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 8, a Thai soldier, Sgt. Maj. Jakrapanth Thomma, opened fire at Terminal 21 shopping mall in the city of Korat. The mall was the last stop in his violent rampage which started at 3:30 p.m. at the house of Anong Mitrchan, a woman who was responsible for selling property to military officers in Korat.
He shot Anong; her son-in-law and Jakrapanth's superior, Col. Anantharot Krasae; and her business partner, at the house. Anong and Anantharot were killed while the business partner was seriously wounded. He proceeded to steal weapons and ammunition from the camp Surathamphitak army base, where he worked. He also shot dead one army guard at the camp before heading to Terminal 21 mall in Korat. En route to the mall, he stopped at a Buddhist temple and killed around nine people, including one police officer.
A 17-hour-long police operation in the mall ensued, which lasted until early Sunday morning. The arduous process was punctuated by gunfire exchanges and unsuccessful attempts to persuade the shooter to surrender. The gunman allegedly held eight people hostage and many more were trapped inside the mall for hours as they tried to hide from the shooter. In one particular gunfire exchange at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, one police officer was killed and two others injured by the rogue gunman.
By the end of the ordeal, Jakrapanth killed at least 29 people, two of whom were police officers. More than 50 others were wounded and 30 remained hospitalised as of Sunday morning, according to CNN.
In a chilling move, the shooter live streamed parts of the rampage on Facebook. He also shared his thoughts in several posts. “Should I surrender?” one read. “Oh shit, I’ve got cramps in my hand,” said another.
“Tired, I can barely move my fingers,” he said in a video posted on Facebook at 7:20 p.m. on Saturday.
His Facebook account was removed moments later. “There is no place on Facebook for people who commit this kind of atrocity,” Facebook said in a statement on Saturday.
How did it end?
At 9:05 a.m. on Sunday morning, the 17-hour-long standoff at Terminal 21 came to an end after security forces killed the gunman in the building.
"We had to make the move of confronting him because people who were trapped inside a freezing room sent messages to us that the oxygen level was very low and they are suffocating," said Maj. Gen. Jirapob Puridet, who led security forces into the mall.
What was it like on the ground?
This video shared on Twitter shows what it was like outside the mall as the attack took place.
Shoppers who waited out the shooting recounted to AFP the horror they experienced. Sottiyanee Unchalee said that she hid in a gym toilet in the mall when she heard gunshots. Another shopper, Aldrin Baliquing, said that he was ushered into a storeroom by staff at the mall. “We were there for six gruelling hours… I’m in shock,” he said.
A survivor told local media that the shooter was “aiming for the heads,” Reuters reported. “He was shooting everywhere and his shots were very precise,” he said.
Why did he do it?
In the aftermath of the tragedy, people are trying to comprehend why the soldier decided to go on a bloody rampage in the crowded town centre.
Right before commencing his shooting spree at the mall, he had written an ominous post on his Facebook page that said: “Death is inevitable for everyone.”
In an attempt to convince Jakrapanth to surrender, the shooter’s mother was brought near the mall from his hometown in Chaiyaphum Province. According to Channel News Asia, a video shows his mother sobbing as she entered a police vehicle. “Why did he do it?” she cried. However, she also said that there was “little point in talking to him,”claiming that “he had depression and an extremely bad temper,” the BBC reported.
Local media reported that he was involved in a disagreement with Anantharot, his superior officer. One of his Facebook posts at 12:10 p.m. on Saturday, before it all began, read: “Being rich from taking advantage of others, do they think they can use money in hell?”
At 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, Thailand’s prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said in a statement that “a property deal appeared to have given Jakraphanth a sense of grievance which led to his rampage.”
That evening, a vigil was held for the victims of the shooting. Hundreds of people gathered around the mall to write tributes and show their solidarity for those affected by the tragedy.
Find Koh Ewe on Instagram.