The apology and briefing by the army chief were frank and informative. General Apirat appeared at times to have a strained voice and shed tears as he urged the public not to blame the army for the atrocity and gave telling details as he explained what happened and steps being taken in its aftermath.
The army chief has revealed that moves are being made to shut down ill-thought through ‘welfare schemes’ in the ranks as he apologised to the public for the atrocity committed by a soldier attached to the 2nd Army in Korat on Saturday. An at times tearful General Apirat Kongsompong, however, pointed out that the evil killer forsook his status as a soldier the moment he pulled the trigger of one of his legally held guns to murder his commanding officer on Saturday afternoon after 2 pm. He also announced that a new reporting channel to allow army whistleblowers to reveal ill-treatment at the hands of superior officers directly to his office had already been set up and would be permanent.
The Thai army chief has given an emotional and revealing 2-hour press conference at military headquarters in Bangkok in which he apologised to the families of victims of Saturday’s massacre by 32-year-old Sergeant Major Jakrapanth Thomma at the Terminal 21 Shopping Centre in the Korat, Nakhon Ratchasima.
The army boss revealed that the mass murderer had been previously misused by his commanding officer who he first murdered last Saturday at sometime between 2 pm and 3 pm.
Killer ceased to be a soldier when he pulled the trigger on his commanding officer to set off the attack
However, today while speaking to the press, General Apirat said that when the man pulled the trigger to murder on Saturday, he immediately ceased to be a soldier of the Thai army.
‘The moment he shot his commander, he became a murderer, not a soldier,’ General Apirat insisted.
Channels for soldiers to reports abuses
The army chief has revealed that he has set up a hotline or channel for the lower ranks to communicate directly with his office in respect of superiors where soldiers who believe they are ill-treated can file reports.
General Apirat also predicted that there would be many officers moved to inactive posts over the coming months and that he has already moved to shut down what described as ‘welfare projects’ which were not well thought through.
He rejected accusations that his actions were akin to closing the stable door after the horse had already bolted.
Sincere, wholehearted apologies to the Thai people and families impacted by the horrific atrocity
The head of the army appeared to cry as he offered his sincere apologies to the victims of Saturday’s atrocity. ‘As the commander of the army, I apologise and I am wholeheartedly sorry that the man behind the incident was a soldier,’ he said. ‘I extend my condolences to the relatives of the slain victims.’
The murderer is believed to have killed 29 people and injured 58 more in an explosion of violence that commenced after 2 pm on Saturday but which became a killing binge inflicted on the Thai public when the heavily armed shooter equipped with stolen military assault weapons and ammunition arrived at the busy shopping centre.
Army chief and deputy defence minister sent to Korat by the PM on Saturday to be at the scene
The army boss gave further details of the shooting as he appeared to wish to give full and frank disclosure to the public.
He said that on Saturday he received an order from the Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prayut Chan ocha to attend the scene of the attack. He was accompanied by Deputy Defence Minister General Chaichan Changmongkol.
Police chief given sole command of the operation
Arriving at the location at 10 pm, General Apirat said the first decision was to appoint the police chief as commander of the operation and to treat the incident as a crime.
He then focused on preparing the elite Task Force 90 military unit to assist in any proposed operations.
During the operation to locate the attacker and bring the outrage to an end, the military acted in support of the police including efforts to prepare weapons, claiming parking space for rescue units and ambulances, facilitating communications between groups and helping to provide blood which was in short supply at nearby hospitals.
The army chief said up to 1,000 soldiers donated blood.
Soldier violently stole weapons and ammunition
General Apirat revealed that the army sergeant major, after killing his commanding officer Colonel Anantharot Krasae and a 63-year-old woman, then travelled to the armoury at the nearby Suranaree Camp. The soldier was part of an ammunitions battalion which was part of the 2nd Thai Army.
At the commander’s house, the killer had used his own weapons which he held legally. On arrival at the base, he forced a soldier to hand him an HK33 assault rifle. After this, he drove to the garrison and on the way murdered another Thai soldier, 22-year-old Metha ‘Bank’ Lertsiri.
At that location, the attacker used an M51 modified patrol jeep to break into an ammunition depot where he obtained a second HK33 weapon and an M60 assault rifle together with more rounds of ammunition.
This occurred between 3 pm and 4 pm. He is believed to have exchanged fire at the facility and was followed by a soldier in his car as he set off for Korat to massacre innocent civilians.
Urged the public not to blame the army for the killings
The army chief on Tuesday strongly urged the public not to blame the army for what happened on Saturday.
He said that he was concerned that public criticism of the army, which he regarded as a sacred institution, would lower the morale of many fine officers and soldiers who regularly risk their lives and are committed to serving the public in all areas including dangerous security operations and disaster relief.
‘If you want to insult someone, insult me’
‘If you want to insult someone, insult me, Apirat Kongsompong, as their commander,’ General Apirat exclaimed. He said that he would personally take responsibility for what had happened on Saturday. General Apirat also used the occasion to praise the Thai police for their ‘hard work and sacrifice’ in dealing with the violent attacker in which 3 police commandos lost their lives.
The General, however, said that he does not intend to resign his post over the incident. He is due for retirement this September.
+ Crazed Thai soldier kills 17 and takes hostages in Nakhon Ratchasima – broadcast on Facebook – Army tactical team on the way to deal with the situation.https://www.thaiexaminer.com/thai-news-foreigners/2020/02/08/thai-soldier-attacks-terminal-21-shopping-centre-nakhon-ratchasima-17-dead/James Morris reports from Nakhon Ratchasima Province
Posted by ThaiExaminer.com on Saturday, February 8, 2020