A Thai soldier who killed at least 26 people, most of them in a shopping mall in the northeast of the country, was angry over a land deal involving a relative of his commanding officer, officials said on Sunday.
Thai security forces shot and killed the rogue soldier after an overnight standoff at the Terminal 21 shopping centre in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima, where most of the victims of the massacre were killed.
The soldier drove to the mall in a stolen Humvee and was armed with an assault weapon and ammunition stolen from the army base’s arsenal, an official said.
He initially posted written messages on Facebook during the attack before his account was shut down by the company.
“It was a personal conflict…over a house deal,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters on Sunday from Nakhon Ratchasima after travelling there to meet with wounded survivors.
Prayuth added that the conflict was with a relative of the soldier’s commanding officer.
Hundreds of shoppers fled the mall in groups crouching low, and the police and army launched several rescues during the more than 12-hour standoff, with armed forces at one point emerging at a run carrying small children.
“It was frightening because I could hear the occasional gunshot…we waited a long time for the police to come and help us, many hours,” said Suvanarat Jirattanasakul, 27, her voice trembling after she emerged.
Another survivor told local Amarin TV that the shooter was “aiming for the heads” and said his colleague died on the scene.
“He was shooting everywhere and his shots were very precise,” said the man, identified as “Diaw”.
Also known by the historical name Korat, Nakhon Ratchasima has a population of about 250,000. It is close to a national park popular for its wild elephants but the northeastern region is one of the lesser-visited areas among Thailand’s nearly million annual tourists.
Police named the shooter as 32-year-old soldier Jakrapanth Thomma. He reportedly worked at an army base close to Nakhon Ratchasima, which is about 250 km (155 miles) from the capital Bangkok.