Jakrapanth Thomma
From the Facebook page of Jakrapanth Thomma Image Credit: AFP


Thailand: Thailand's prime minister says 27 people are dead, including the gunman who went on the bloodiest shooting spree in the country's history.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters that another 57 people have been wounded in the 16-hour rampage in Nakhon Ratchasima, a hub for Thailand's relatively poorer and rural northeastern region.

Authorities say a soldier angry over a financial dispute was behind the killings.

Sgt. Maj. Jakrapanth Thomma was fatally shot Sunday morning in a busy shopping mall where he was holed up overnight.

Thailand mall
People are evacuated from a shopping mall by members of security forces after a shooting rampage in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand February 08, 2020. Image Credit: Reuters

The first killing took place on a military base and then he went on a far bloodier rampage Saturday, shooting as he drove to the mall where shoppers fled in terror.

It took police sharpshooters 16 hours to end the crisis.

Authorities said Sgt. Maj. Jakrapanth Thomma was behind the attack in Nakhon Ratchasima, a hub for Thailand's relatively poorer and rural northeastern region. Much of the shooting took place at Terminal 21 Korat, an airport-themed mall filled with colorful Lego sculptures, a merry-go-round and huge replicas of landmarks from around the world.

Thai shooting
This screenshot made on February 8, 2020 from a handout video released by the Thai Royal Police shows a fire on the compound of the Terminal 21 shopping mall during a shooting by a Thai soldier in the northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima. Image Credit: AFP
Thai mall
Police at the scene Image Credit: AFP


UAE Embassy issues statement 

The UAE Embassy in Bangkok has advised citizens of the UAE to stay in their residence and contact the mission on the hotline number 0066871108785.

The warning came as a Thai soldier gunned down at least 17 people an attack which he shared on Facebook, emergency services said Saturday, in an ongoing mass shooting which focused on a town centre mall.

The attack in the northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima began late in the afternoon at an army barracks, police told AFP.

Three people were killed - among them at least one soldier - when Sergeant-Major Jakrapanth Thomma opened fire.

"He stole an army vehicle and drove into the town centre," police Lieutenant-Colonel Mongkol Kuptasiri.

Jakrapanth Thomma
From the Facebook page of Jakrapanth Thomma Image Credit: AFP

Local media reported the gunman seized weapons from the army arsenal before embarking on a shooting spree in the centre of the town.

In a fast-moving incident, authorities could not confirm local media reports the gunman had taken up to 16 hostages.

There were "17 deaths, 14 wounded" late Saturday, said an unnamed spokesperson from Bangkok's Erawan Center - the dispatch centre for emergency services across the country.

Video and photos circulating online relayed panicked scenes on a main road in the city - which is better known as Korat.

People fled while at least one fire roared as what appeared to be the sound of automatic gunfire filled the air.

Thai shooting
A person runs away from a shopping mall during a Thai soldier's shooting rampage in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand February 8, 2020 in this still image obtained from social media video. Image Credit: Reuters

The gunman also posted photos of himself and wrote several posts on his Facebook page including "should I surrender" and "no one can escape death".

In one Facebook video - since deleted - the assailant, wearing an army helmet, filmed from an open jeep saying, "I'm tired... I can't pull my finger anymore" and making a trigger symbol with his hand.

There were also photos of a man in a ski mask holding up a pistol.

The defence ministry said forces have sealed off the Terminal 21 shopping centre but have yet to capture the suspect.

Thailand has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world but mass shootings by soldiers targeting civilians are rare.

Several shootings at courthouses late last year also renewed concern about gun violence in the Southeast Asia country.

In one high-profile case, a two-year-old boy was among three people killed in Thailand when a masked gunman robbed a jewellery shop last month.

Late last year two lawyers were shot dead by a clerk at a court in the east of the country during a hearing over a land dispute.

Death toll rises

Nattaya Nganiem and her family had just finished eating and were driving away when she heard gunfire.

"First I saw a woman run out from the mall hysterically,'' said Nattaya, who shot video of the scene on her phone. "Then a motorcycle rider in front of her just ran and left his motorcycle there.''

Hundreds of people were evacuated from the mall in small batches by police while they searched for the gunman.

"We were scared and ran to hide in toilets," said Sumana Jeerawattanasuk, one of those rescued by police. She said seven or eight people hid in the same room as her.

"I am so glad. I was so scared of getting hurt," she said.

Initial report

Defense Ministry spokesman Kongcheep told Thai media that the first person killed was the commanding officer of the 22nd Ammunition Battalion, in which the suspect also served. He said the gunman had fired at others at his base and took guns and ammunition before fleeing in an army Humvee.

City and neighborhood police officers, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to release information, said the man fired shots as he drove to the mall. Thai Rath television aired mall security camera footage showing a man with what appeared to be an assault rifle.

The man also posted updates to his Facebook page during the rampage.

The soldier opened fire at different locations in the city, which is more than 250 km (155 miles) from Bangkok, police spokesman Kissana Phathanacharoen said in a message to reporters.

A police officer contacted by phone in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima said the soldier had a quarrel about a land deal and shot two people who were involved, another soldier and a woman.

The police officer, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to release information, said the man took a gun from the base where he is stationed outside the city and drove to the mall, shooting along the way. The city is also known as Korat.

Royal Thai Police spokesman Krissana Pattanacharoen said more than 10 people had been killed.

The mall was shut down and the street outside was closed while the authorities tried to arrest the gunman.