Thailand terrorised

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Guns are set up in a window display at the Ratchasima Gun Shop, located near the Terminal 21 shopping mall where a mass shooting took place in the northeastern Thai city of Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, on Monday. AFP

Thailand has been terrorised, albeit not in the conventional sense. The country bears witness to the deadliest mass shooting, one that has led to the deaths of no fewer than 30 people in a supermarket on Sunday.

While such killings are now almost integral to America, the extreme form of mental aberration as manifest in an individual’s relentless shooting spree has convulsed the nation that had emerged some months ago from almost chronic political instability.

No political or terrorist underpinning was a factor in the death of 30 people during the peak hour weekend shopping period. If Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s version of the mayhem is any indication, the rampage stemmed from an individual’s land dispute. As it turns out, it is the innocents who have fallen to a military renegade’s bullets, recalling the depredations of hardcore terrorists.

The gunman was said to be carrying weapons stolen from a military base. True, he was gunned down by the mall’s security network, but the military gear that he wore was the giveaway to his identity – Sergeant Major Jakrapanth Thomma.

In a nation where mass shootings are rare, Sunday’s bloody strife is bound to prompt deeper questions about the near total lack of security in the mall, the behaviour of a renegade soldier, the government’s response, the nature of the land dispute and the resultant depression that provoked the aggrieved to gun down 30 innocent shoppers.

Officials of the administration merely iterate the obvious when they contend that the “assassin simply went mad”. Perhaps he was a victim of what they call temporary insanity. That madness, it is now more than obvious, has found expression in calculated malevolence. Even if the gunman was enraged over a land dispute over the sale of a house, the conflict, without killing as many innocents as he did, could well have been resolved without mortal violence.

The assassin has been driven quicker to death than to the land and the house in course of the counter-mobilisation by the forces, led by Major-General Jirapob Purideth. The death of the shoppers, wholly unconnected with the root of the aberration, has heightened the enormity of the tragedy. Hours before the shooting, it is notable that Jakrapanth had denounced the “greedy” in a Facebook account.

“Rich from cheating. Taking advantage of other people. Do they think they can spend the money in hell? Death is inevitable for everyone.” It really is, with or without intimations of mortality. The sheer suddenness of the deaths in Thailand on Sunday has well and truly convulsed the nation, indeed prompting the Prime Minister and the military to intervene. But it will be foolish for authorities to conclude there wasn’t much they could have done in the face of one who went over the edge.

While the soldier had access to a weapon, so too do many Thai civilians as part of a culture of gun ownership that sees the country record twice the proportion of gun-related deaths annually than does the US. One in 10 Thais owns a registered weapon, many others acquire firearms from the black market. It is this culture of violence that the government in Bangkok must address.