Shopping Mall Massacre In Thailand Ends
BANGKOK, Thailand -- After shooting dead an army gunman
on February 9
in a Korat shopping mall where he killed 29 people, security forces
faced the difficult task of securing weapons, ammunition and vehicles
at military bases throughout the country to prevent a repeat of
Thailand's worst mass shooting of civilians in modern history.
The military may also want to examine the
wisdom of having many of its
senior, most experienced officers busy playing politics, running
ministries, plus leading and supporting coups instead of focusing on
tightening discipline and access at their bases and barracks.
It is impossible to stop a lone gunman
determined to kill innocent
people at a undefended venue anywhere in the world.
Mass shootings of civilians are
rare in Thailand, unlike the United
States and some other wealthier, more advanced countries.
The shopping mall
massacre in Korat, a northeast city also known as
Nakorn Ratchasima, showcased heroic, altruistic, unarmed security
guards who bravely escorted terrified customers to safety during the
security forces who entered the mall also
impressive techniques while hunting for the killer, Sgt. Jakrapanth
They tapped into the
mall's array of internally installed CCTV cameras
to track his movements.
They also deployed drone
surveillance through the multi-story building
to study Jakrapanth, 32, and the layout of the shops, restaurants,
storage rooms, hallways, bathrooms and other areas.
When Jakrapanth reportedly shot down two
drones, security forces asked
to borrow some drones from journalists who gathered outside the
indicated that the military may want to spend more on drones
training in their use.
Some of the most
decisive acts ended gunman's slaughter when
forces lay flat on the mall's shiny polished tiles one floor above
each of their high-powered assault rifle's
lens, security forces aimed past empty escalators at Jakrapanth in the
basement floor near several shops next to the base of a red-and-white
The lighthouse was part of the Terminal 21
shopping mall's interior
design. Each floor's theme used images and objects of airport
destinations including San Francisco, London, Paris, Istanbul and
Those themes originally appeared in
Bangkok's Terminal 21 mall and
proved amusing among customers who marveled at signs identifying San
Francisco's Haight Ashbury neighborhood, a replica of England's
double-decker red bus and telephone booth, and other popular symbols.
Security forces finally got a
clear shot and killed Jakrapanth at the
base of the lighthouse, according to graphic video they reportedly
released shortly afterward.
gruesome bloody streaks from the lighthouse where
dragged Jakrapanth's body away.
gunman's anger allegedly erupted because he felt he was
sufficiently paid after some land had been sold -- perhaps a
The first person he
killed was his commanding officer who allegedly
was involved in the deal. Details about their relationship were not
It was difficult to
determine why he then went to the mall and
slaughtered innocent people.
Thailand's heavily politicized and
poorly disciplined military has not
been mentioned as a motive in the killings.
But officials, dissidents,
politicians and others have, in the past,
criticized its lack of focus on purely military affairs.
officers and their units have been involved in 18
and attempted putsches since 1932, and also ruled this Southeast Asian
nation for many years.
diverting their attention to Thailand's murky, often corrupt
treacherous politics, dangerous gaps have appeared in some of its most
Islamist ethnic Malay guerrillas in the south
occasionally been able to raid military camps and checkpoints and
steal weapons and ammunition.
army will now want to bolster the security of their weapons
ammo, not only in the south but also at bases upcountry.
A thriving blackmarket of weapons has also
continued for decades,
including illegal guns from Cambodia smuggled across Thailand to arm
minority ethnic rebels in Myanmar, also known as Burma.
forces may want to snuff those transactions before
become part of a future urban assault by another disturbed individual.
Most Thais do not own a gun.
Millions of legal gun licenses are issued by the
each year, but it is not easy for a person to purchase and possess a
well-made, reliable gun in Thailand.
Thai individuals need to be relatively
wealthy to buy some of the best
quality guns, which are usually made in America and avidly collected.
can buy custom-made leather holsters and other accessories
the estimated 80 weapons stores along Burapha Road, just east of the
Sala Chalerm Krung Royal Theatre, where 90 percent of Bangkok's gun
shops are located.
of the shops have been in business for more than 50 years,
welcome walk-in customers.
If you are a
traveler and don't live in Thailand, you can buy
holster, leather cases, and cleaning products.
Foreigners can buy guns but need to display
a passport, visa, work
permit, house registration in Thailand, bank statement and also pass a
criminal background check and provide their fingerprints.
Applications by Thais follow similar
requirements plus details to stop
people seeking revenge.
The application asks, "Have you been threatened by other people?"
If a Thai answers "yes,"
then it would be harder to get a gun, because
authorities will suspect that person is going to use it to kill
someone, a Firearms Association of Thailand official said.
Guns are also relatively expensive, and are
bought and used mostly by
middle and upper class people, primarily for personal protection but
also for sports or collections.
People residing in the countryside are
usually the ones who buy for
protection because they perceive their area as dangerous.
popular weapons in Thailand include 9-millimeter
and sometimes shotguns or 22-rimfire rifles.
Prices are steep because this predominately
Buddhist country does not
have a major firearms industry and instead imports most weapons,
according to the Firearms Association of Thailand.
With high import
taxes and retail profits, a Glock pistol which might
cost $500 in America could sell for up to $2,500 in Thailand.
People who want a revolver usually ask for a Smith and Wesson.
Among collectors and individuals,
plus many of the troops in
Thailand's armed forces, American weapons are the most popular.
They are also easier to resell and get parts for repair.
Semi-automatic rifles are available but the
sale of fully automatic
weapons is illegal, except for use by Thai security forces.
Thais can buy an
imitation of the AK-47 assault rifle originally
designed by a Russian, prized worldwide among guerrillas and other
The imitation Kalashnikov shoots only
22-caliber bullets, because
Thais cannot buy a semi-automatic that has a caliber more than 22 in
Thailand's most infamous trophy U.S.
Army-issue Colt .45 was given to
King Ananda and his brother Bhumibol for target shooting, just after
World War II, by Alexander MacDonald.
MacDonald was Bangkok
station chief for America's Office of Strategic
Services, forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency.
5, 1946, King Ananda was found dead from a bullet to the
fired from that gun, in circumstances never fully explained.
"The king was evidently lying on his back
at the time of the shot,
which apparently came from the Colt given to the brothers by
MacDonald," who two months later launched the Bangkok Post newspaper,
according to a government-approved nonfiction book titled "King
Bhumibol Adulyadej, A Life's Work."
The American Embassy also
visits Bangkok's gun shops, looking for
possible violations after U.S. weapons are exported to Thailand.
According to unclassified cables written in
2009 by the U.S. Embassy
in Bangkok and published by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, a
"Blue Lantern post-shipment end use check on license" involved an
embassy official sleuthing around the shops to confirm deals were
A seemingly typical Blue Lantern
report in 2009, signed by then-U.S.
Ambassador Eric John, included information from Thailand's Commerce
Ministry about a Bangkok firearms company, and named its investors and
how much cash they spent "to import and sell guns and ammunition."
A U.S. Embassy investigator interviewed
one of the Thai investors who
displayed permits, serial numbers, invoices and other paperwork and
"confirmed the purchase and import of 200 pistols" from America.
shop had five staff and a CCTV system, but there were no
detection or water-sprinkler systems," the U.S. Embassy cable said.
"The front and back gates were the
iron gates. The shop claimed to
have two night guards. The upper floors are the living quarters for
someone to stay. The shop had three old iron safes with double
Thailand meanwhile scores high among
intentional homicide murder rates
in Asia, gun suicides, unintentional gun deaths, and gun deaths from
an undetermined cause.
Richard S. Ehrlich is a
Bangkok-based journalist from San Francisco,
California, reporting news from Asia since 1978 and winner of Columbia
University's Foreign Correspondent's Award. He co-authored three
non-fiction books about Thailand, including "'Hello My Big Big Honey!'
Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews," "60
Stories of Royal Lineage," and "Chronicle of Thailand: Headline News
Since 1946." Mr. Ehrlich also contributed to the chapter "Ceremonies
and Regalia" in a book published in English and Thai titled, "King
Bhumibol Adulyadej, A Life's Work: Thailand's Monarchy in
Perspective." Mr. Ehrlich's newest book, "Sheila Carfenders, Doctor
Mask & President Akimbo" portrays a 22-year-old American female mental
patient who is abducted to Asia by her abusive San Francisco
His online sites are: