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.


East China cities quarantine arrivals as virus spreads in S. Korea, Japan

Commuters wearing protective face masks amid fears of the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus ride an elevated train in Bangkok. (AFP)
Updated 26 February 2020

East China cities quarantine arrivals as virus spreads in S. Korea, Japan

  • South Korea has reported 10 deaths and almost 1,000 infections, while Japan has 159 confirmed cases, not including 691 on a cruise ship that was quarantined near Tokyo

BEIJING: The eastern Chinese city of Qingdao is imposing a 14-day quarantine on all arrivals, state media reported on Tuesday, as China moves to address the threat of a rise in coronavirus cases in neighboring South Korea and nearby Japan.
People with suspected virus symptoms arriving in Qingdao, a major Northeast Asian transport hub in Shandong province, should be isolated in designated hospitals, while others are required to stay at their residences or designated hotels, the official Xinhua news agency said.
The rule came into force on Monday, Xinhua added, citing a local government statement.
“Apparently 100,000 South Koreans live in Qingdao, and there are normally over 300 flights a week between Seoul and Qingdao,” Michael Pettis, a finance professor at Peking University, said on Twitter. “This is likely to be disruptive to both economies.”
Another Shandong city, Weihai, said it would quarantine arrivals from Japan and South Korea from Tuesday — the first country-specific compulsory quarantine requirement by China, which has criticized travel restrictions implemented by other countries.
The measures comes as the virus, which started in China’s Hubei province, takes hold beyond the country.
South Korea has reported 10 deaths and almost 1,000 infections, while Japan has 159 confirmed cases, not including 691 on a cruise ship that was quarantined near Tokyo.
Weihai is also home to a sizeable Korean expatriate community. It lies near the eastern tip of the Shandong peninsula across the Yellow Sea from South Korea, and its quarantine rules apply both to Chinese and foreign nationals arriving in the city.
They will be put up in hotels free of charge for a 14-day quarantine period, according to a notice on the city’s official Wechat account.

HIGHLIGHTS

● Qingdao imposes 14-day quarantine on all arrivals.

● Shandong city Weihai singles out S. Korea, Japan arrivals.

● S. Korea has almost 1,000 cases; Japan cases up.

People who arrived in Weihai from South Korea or Japan from Feb. 10 onwards have already been contacted by the Weihai government, the statement said, adding it had “appropriately handled” cases of fever.
The government of a third Shandong port city, Yantai, on Tuesday said all business travelers and short-term visitors should stay in designated hotels.
Further north in China’s Liaoning province, the city of Liaoning — home to both North Korean and South Korean communities — is tightening screening of inbound passengers and will check the temperature of all arrivals, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
Sweden’s health agency said it would not introduce airport controls that take up resources but are “ineffective” because infected people may not show symptoms.
Ukraine International Airlines onboard personnel will wear rubber gloves and masks on flights from Italy.
Meanwhile, the drugmaker Moderna has shipped a potential coronavirus vaccine for humans to government researchers for testing.
Shares of the biotech company soared, a day after the company said it sent vials to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for early-stage testing in the US.