Thailand’s army chief has apologized for the actions of a rogue soldier who killed 29 people in a mass shooting that has shocked the Southeast Asian nation.
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 Feb. 11.
“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 shooter, Sergeant Major Jakrapanth Thomma, was shot dead by security forces on Feb. 9 in the Terminal 21 shopping center in the northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima.
The 32-year-old started killing the day before, shooting his commanding officer and the commander’s mother-in-law over a business dispute involving land.
The shooter then drove to his army base, stole more weapons and ammunition and shot his way through a Buddhist temple before going into the shopping center, where he randomly fired at shoppers and held off police for more than 12 hours.
Along with those killed, a further 57 people were wounded in an act which prompted the local Catholic Church to offer its condolences to the loved ones of the victims.
“We, the Thai people, share the suffering and we encourage the families, relatives, and friends of the victims, who have lost their lives or suffer injuries, from this sad and shocking event in which we never thought will ever happen in our country,” said a statement from Bishop Joseph Prathan Sridarunsil, vice president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Thailand.
“We ask that God provide relief and encouragement to the injured and to the families and friends of the victims from this shocking event,” the statement said adding that the Nakorn Ratchasima Diocese was “collecting money and necessities from the faithful” to help with relief efforts.