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Tearful Thai general says ‘don’t blame army’ for soldier’s rampage

Tearful Thai general says ‘don’t blame army’ for soldier’s rampage

THAILAND: An emotional Thai army chief today (Feb 11) urged a nation in mourning over a mass shooting “not to blame the army” after a soldier gunned down at least 29 people in a rampage linked to a debt dispute with a senior officer.


Tuesday 11 February 2020, 02:44PM

Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong during his press conference at Royal Thai Army headquarters in Bangkok today (Feb 11). Photo: Wassana Nanuam

Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong during his press conference at Royal Thai Army headquarters in Bangkok today (Feb 11). Photo: Wassana Nanuam

General Apirat Kongsompong, an arch-royalist more commonly prone to rants against pro-democracy figures, broke down in tears as he apologised during a televised press conference on behalf of the army to the victims of the shooting.

“As the commander of the army, I apologise and I am wholeheartedly sorry that the man behind the incident was a soldier," Gen. Apirat said.

“I extend my condolences to the relatives of the slain victims.”

The gunman, 32-year-old Sergeant-Major Jakrapanth Thomma, was shot dead by a commando unit on Sunday (Feb 9) morning, ending a 17-hour rampage that left 30 dead and 58 more wounded.

The Thai army has been at pains to portray him as a rogue soldier rather than a product of the army system.

Gen. Apirat said he would not stand down from his post in charge of an army 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 is a huge organisation comprising of hundreds of thousands staff... I cannot focus on every subordinate,” he said.

“"There are people who criticise the army, I urge them not to blame the army... because the army is a sacred organisation,” adding “blame me - General Apirat.”

Instead, he pledged to open a “special channel” to investigate all future complaints from junior officers about their superiors, blaming the attack on a debt dispute between the gunman and his commanding officer.

The gunman “did not receive justice from his commander and his relatives who promised him financial returns,” Gen. Apirat added, apparently from a commission over the sale of house.

Jakrapanth killed his commander and the commander’s mother-in-law first as he embarked on an around 17-hour shooting spree.

Serving army top brass sit on the boards of state-enterprises, while many declare assets in their millions of 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, such as real estate agencies and private 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 will be many, from generals to colonels, who will be jobless,” Gen. Apirat said, also promising to throw out retired army officers from government housing.

Gen. Apirat himself is due to retire in September.

Thais have flooded social media with criticism of their leaders for a perceived lack of empathy in the aftermath of an 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 city where the shooting took place.

No member of the royal family has so far visited survivors although they did express condolences and extend their moral support to the families of victims (see story here).

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Kurt | 15 February 2020 - 08:26:28

"Between now and April many Colonels and Generals will become jobless". That is about time, Thailand alone has more colonels, generals, admirals than USA  and all European countries together. Many not even have a office desk, but much free time to do 'private business' with use of their rank. Also the continues use of conscripts as house boy/gardener remains a shameful army matte...

Kurt | 15 February 2020 - 08:18:25

Don't blame the Army that a  sergeant-major is able to kill his commander, commander's mother in law, a weapon arsenal guard, steel- and arm himself like 'Rocky', steel a humvee, and drives, not stopped/blocked, from Barracks to a Town. Killing and wounding in a shopping  centre. Who to blame when we should not blame the Army?

Jor12 | 13 February 2020 - 14:33:17

k... then how did you get your weapon from the armory and how did you return it...if at all? By post or courier? Anyway, I thought mentally challenged persons were exempt from national service?

ematt | 12 February 2020 - 20:30:38

@Pascale On the losing side.

Jor12 | 12 February 2020 - 14:51:29

yep...just like every other comment on here. No valid arguments

Pascale | 12 February 2020 - 08:58:46

@Fascinated   He probably served in WW2.

Kurt | 12 February 2020 - 08:29:14

@Fascinated. You are wrong, as many times in your 'clear knowing'.  Where I served no soldier can go with a weapon to enter weaponmagazines/storerooms, kill a guard and get himself automatic weapons/ammunition and drive out barrack gates with a stolen humvee. It is clear that thai army weapon guarding is not in good order. Some one is responsible. Next? 'Steeling' a tank?

Rorri_2 | 12 February 2020 - 06:00:56

Fascinated... you're comming across as another ranting Jor12/Dek etc.. criticise but supply no valid argument.

Rorri_2 | 12 February 2020 - 05:58:42

Fascinated... I'm fascinated by you dumb comment... Kurt is 100% correct, so can you please explain your comment... many western countries soldiers don't even have access to weapons unless on active duty, weapons are securely locked away in well guarded armouries. Please enlighten us. 

Fascinated | 11 February 2020 - 23:00:49

Clearly Insp K has never served in the military despite displaying his 'expert' knowledge yet again. This was a rouge event- anyone with any sense can see that. The riddle is why he is allowed to post such dross.

Kurt | 11 February 2020 - 17:28:45

The thai internal army national security is a farce.  And yes, the blame is on the army. Army automatic weapons, very much army ammunition left the barracks of general Apirat , all used in a horrible happening in a civilian area.. How such general can say: 'Don't blame the army', is a riddle for me.

Kurt | 11 February 2020 - 17:18:48

....blocking any democratic process in the country called Thailand.  Yes, blame is on the thai army. Many weapons + more than 600 rounds were in reach of a army mental idiot, costing many civilian thai lives and many more wounded in a shopping centre. Explain me how he could kill people in the barracks and undisturbed could drive to a shopping centre in city to do all this, general Apirat.

Kurt | 11 February 2020 - 17:07:48

Well, it seems this top General was served well ( 'have your arms ready, soldiers' he said a few weeks ago). And he himself still remembers the drama lessons during his school years. The thai army a sacred organisation?  What they contribute to the image of Thailand? Just coups, rewriting 'constitutions' not worth the paper written on, and blocking any democratic process in the cou...

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