BANGKOK — Authorities in Thailand charged a 14-year-old boy with premeditated murder and illegal possession of a firearm on Wednesday (Oct 4) after a shooting spree at a Bangkok mall using what police said was a modified pistol intended to fire blanks.
Two people were killed and five wounded in the shooting at Siam Paragon shopping centre on Tuesday, the latest gun violence to shock Thailand in the past three years.
The suspect had suffered a psychological breakdown in the run-up to the shooting, police said. But a court turned down a police request to detain the suspect at a mental health facility and ordered him into juvenile detention instead, according to a court document seen by Reuters.
The suspect faces five charges including illegal possession of a firearm, the illegal carrying of a firearm in public, and illegal discharge of a firearm in public, Major General Nakarin Sukhontawit told Reuters.
The shooting spree erupted late on Tuesday afternoon at the mall in Bangkok’s bustling commercial heart, sending hundreds of panicked shoppers racing to the exits, some screaming as gunshots rang out. A Chinese and Myanmar national were killed.
The suspect surrendered after police cornered him in a designer furniture shop.
Mass shootings are rare in Thailand but gun violence and gun ownership is common. Ownership rules are strict, but firearms can be modified and obtained illegally, many smuggled from abroad.
Police said the boy had adapted a widely sold gun meant to fire blanks.
VOICE ‘TOLD HIM TO SHOOT’
The violence came three days from the first anniversary of Thailand’s worst massacre, in which 35 people were murdered, 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.
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. It was Instagram’s most photographed place in 2013.
On Wednesday flowers were left in front of the mall as it reopened for businessm while workers were 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,” Mr Srettha said.
“We will work through the policy process by controlling guns and making them harder to access.”
The shooting came as Mr 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 citizens of China, a crucial market for Thailand.
China’s embassy in Bangkok said Mr Srettha had called its ambassador and pledged to “strengthen public safety management to offer a reliable and safe environment for Chinese people traveling to Thailand”.
National police chief Torsak Sukvimol said the suspected gunman had been receiving psychological treatment and had not taken his prescribed medication when he embarked on the shooting.
Investigators were looking into his background and planned to speak to friends, including some online gamers, about his mental state.
“We will have to investigate the suspect regarding whether he had violent and aggressive conduct before,” said Mr Torsak, who met the boy soon after the shooting.
“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,” he told media. REUTERS