An emotional Thai army chief on Tuesday urged a nation in mourning over a mass shooting “not responsible the army” after a soldier gunned down a minimum of 29 people during a rampage linked to a debt dispute with a senior officer.
General Apirat Kongsompong, an arch-royalist more commonly susceptible to rants against pro-democracy figures, broke down in tears as he apologised during a televised news conference on behalf of the military to the victims of the shooting.
The gunman — Sergeant-Major Jakrapanth Thomma — was shot dead by a commando unit Sunday morning, ending a 17-hour rampage that left 29 dead and scores more wounded.
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Thailand residents mourn victims together witness describes the attack where a soldier killed a minimum of 29 people and wounded dozens more during a rampage in and round the northeastern Thai city of Nakhon Ratchasima.
The Thai army has been at pains to portray him as a rogue soldier instead of a product of the military system.
Apirat said he wouldn’t stand down from his post responsible of a military which has seeped into all aspects of Thai life, from politics and business to conscription, with a mega-billion budget that has surged since the last coup in 2014.
“The army may be a huge organisation comprising of many thousands staff… I cannot specialise in every subordinate,” he said.
“There are people that criticise the military , I urge them to not blame the military … because the military may be a sacred organisation,” adding “blame me – General Apirat.”
Instead he pledged to open a “special channel” to research all future complaints from junior officers about their superiors, blaming the attack on a debt dispute between the gunman and his commandant .
The gunman “did not receive justice from his commander and his relatives who promised him financial returns”, Apirat added, apparently from a commission over the sale of house.
Jakrapanth killed his commander and therefore the commander’s mother-in-law first as he began an around 17-hour shooting spree.
Serving army administration sit on the boards of state-enterprises, while many declare assets in their many dollars despite their meagre soldier’s wages.
Army Chiefs routinely flip to become civilian prime ministers – often following coups – while barracks are accused of being hives of grey-zone businesses, like land agencies and personal security firms.
Senior officers often use conscripts as effective private butlers in taxpayer-funded grace and favour homes.
“I guarantee between February and April there’ll be many – from generals to colonels – who are going to be jobless,” Apirat said, also promising to throw out retired army officers from government housing.
Apirat himself is thanks to retire in September.
Thais have flooded social media with criticism of their leaders for a perceived lack of empathy within the aftermath of the unprecedented mass shooting.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha was forced into rare public contrition on Sunday after he smiled and high-fived a crowd as he visited Korat, the town where the shooting happened .
No member of the kingdom’s rich ruling royalty , who are buttressed by the military and guarded by a defamation law, has thus far visited survivors.