Thai army chief tearfully apologizes for mass shooting by soldier

Thai army chief Apirat Kongsompong reacts during a news conference in Bangkok, Thailand, following last weekend's shooting rampage by a soldier at a mall in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima, February 11, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 11 February 2020

Thai army chief tearfully apologizes for mass shooting by soldier

  • Thai Army Chief General Apirat Kongsompong said the army will help compensate all the victims and their families

BANGKOK: Thailand’s army chief apologized on Tuesday for a rogue soldier, whose 19-hour shooting rampage killed 29 people and wounded 57 over the weekend, stunning the country.

At times wiping away tears, Thai Army Chief General Apirat Kongsompong said during a 90-minute press conference that the army will help compensate all the victims and their families.

“I, as army chief, would like to apologize and say how sorry I am for this incident which was caused by a staff of the army,” Apirat said.

“In the minute, the second that the perpetrator pulled the trigger and killed, in that minute he is a criminal and no longer a soldier,” he said.

The soldier, Sergeant Major Jakrapanth Thomma, was shot dead by security forces on Sunday after he had stormed the Terminal 21 shopping center in the northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima the day before.

The 32-year-old had started the killing early on Saturday, shooting his commanding officer and the commander’s mother-in-law over a business dispute.

He then drove to his army base, stole more assault weapons and ammunition and shot his way through a Buddhist temple before going to the Terminal 21 shopping center, where he randomly fired at shoppers and held off police for more than 12 hours.

Apirat said the military would investigate the commanding officer who was killed, Col. Anantharot Krasae, 48, and the housing deal apparently brokered by Anantharot’s mother-in-law Anong Mitchan, 63.

Apirat said the commanding officer took advantage of the shooter in a land deal where a “promise was broken” over money matters.

He said authorities will find out who else was involved in the scheme and he promised a new line of communication so that army personnel could complain directly to the army chief.

“The army and I have already instructed this,” he said, adding his mission before retirement in October was to make things fairer for army staff.

“I don’t think any Thai people would like this incident to happen again, so please don’t blame the army or berate soldiers,” Apirat said.

“If you want to blame someone, you blame General Apirat Kongsompong. I accept all criticisms and opinions. You can blame me because I am the army chief,” he said.


Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

Updated 12 July 2020

Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

  • Exercise being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory

HONG KONG: Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers turned up over the weekend to vote in an unofficial two-day primary election held by the city’s pro-democracy camp as it gears up to field candidates for an upcoming legislative poll.
The exercise is being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory in a move widely seen as chipping away at the “one country, two systems” framework under which Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997. It was passed in response to last year’s massive protests calling for greater democracy and more police accountability.
Throngs of people lined up at polling booths in the summer heat to cast their vote despite a warning by Hong Kong’s constitutional affairs minister, Eric Tsang last week that the primaries could be in breach of the new national security law, because it outlaws interference and disruption of duties by the local government.
Organizers have dismissed the comments, saying they just want to hold the government accountable by gaining a majority in the legislature.
The legislation prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in Hong Kong affairs. Under the law, police now have sweeping powers to conduct searches without warrants and order Internet service providers and platforms to remove messages deemed to be in violation of the legislation.
On Friday, police raided the office of the Public Opinion Research Institute, a co-organizer of the primary elections. The computer system was suspected of being hacked, causing a data leak, police said in a statement, and an investigation is ongoing.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp, which includes multiple parties, is attempting to join forces and use the primaries as a guide to field the best candidates in the official legislative election in September. Its goal is to win a majority in the legislature, which is typically skewed toward the pro-Beijing camp.
To hold the primary elections, pro-democracy activists had raised money via crowd funding. They pledged to veto the government’s budget if they clinch a majority in the legislature. Under the Basic Law, under which Hong Kong is governed, city leader Carrie Lam must resign if an important bill such as the budget is vetoed twice.
On Saturday alone, nearly 230,000 people voted at polling booths set up across the city, exceeding organizers’ estimates of a 170,000 turnout over the weekend.