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Suspected Thai mall shooter suffered breakdown, used modified pistol: Police

BANGKOK: A Thai teenager suspected of killing two foreigners in a Bangkok mall shooting had suffered a psychological breakdown and had modified a handgun designed to fire blanks, police said on Wednesday (Oct 4).

Chaos erupted at the luxury Siam Paragon mall close to peak hours on Tuesday, with hundreds fleeing as gunshots rang out in what was the latest high-profile gun violence to grip the country in the past three years.

Two women were killed, from China and Myanmar, and five people wounded – two foreigners and three Thai nationals.

The suspected gunman, a 14-year-old, was arrested late on Tuesday. Police said he had been receiving psychological treatment and had not taken his prescribed medication on the day of the shooting.

He was charged on Wednesday with premeditated murder and illegal possession of a firearm. 

Investigators were looking into the boy’s background and planned to speak to friends, who were online gamers, about his mental state, the national police chief said, adding it was unusual to apprehend a shooter alive.

The suspect surrendered after police cornered him in a designer furniture shop. 

“We still cannot get a statement out of him because the doctor said he had a psychological problem,” Major General Nakarin Sukhontawit told Reuters.

“We will have to investigate the suspect as to whether he had violent and aggressive conduct before,” police chief Torsak Sukvimol said in a television interview.

“The suspect had a breakdown psychologically and it fits an active shooter profile,” Torsak said, adding he had questioned the detained boy.

“Initially I spoke to him to calm him down … He appeared to hear someone speaking to him, he was hearing things, a noise he said told him to shoot.”

Related:

Thai teenager charged with murder over Bangkok mall shooting

'Everybody was screaming': Fear, chaos at Bangkok's Siam Paragon mall as gunman opened fire

GUN TROUBLES

Mass shootings are rare in Thailand but gun violence and gun ownership is common. Rules on ownership are strict, but firearms can be modified and obtained illegally, many smuggled from abroad.

The violence came three days from the first anniversary of the death of 35 people, including 22 children at a nursery in a northeast Thai town, during an hours-long gun-and-knife attack by a former policeman who later shot himself dead.

In 2020, a soldier shot and killed at least 29 people and wounded 57 in a rampage that spanned four locations around the northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima.

Instagram’s most photographed place in 2013, Siam Paragon is Thailand’s most famous mall, drawing throngs of domestic and foreign shoppers daily to its high-end stores, aquarium, cinema and food court dining.

On Wednesday, flowers were left in front of the mall as it reopened for business, with workers seen replacing the shattered facade of a Louis Vuitton store.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin attended a technology event at the mall and told reporters that access to guns, including ones that can be modified, was something his government would address with police.

“They can buy from online, therefore we need to be more restrictive in young people’s access to these dangerous things,” Srettha said.

“We will work through the policy process by controlling guns and making them harder to access.”

The shooting came as Srettha’s new government is trying to stimulate a stuttering economy by boosting tourist arrivals in what is one of Asia’s most popular travel spots, including by offering visa-free entry to Chinese nationals.

China’s embassy in Bangkok said Srettha had called its ambassador and pledged to “strengthen public safety management to offer a reliable and safe environment for Chinese people travelling to Thailand”.

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