Thai soldier shot dead after killing 26 in country's worst ever gun rampage

Medics carry a stretcher towards a Thai shopping mall on Sunday where a gunman was shot dead by police after killing 27 people on Saturday a Credit: Sakchai Lalit/AP

Thai police on Sunday shot dead a soldier who killed 26 people and wounded 57 in the worst mass shooting in the country’s history.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha confirmed the numbers of victims after the overnight siege was ended by police on Sunday morning, 16 hours after it began, at a shopping mall in the north-western city of Nakhon Ratchasima, also known as Korat.

Officials said the man – identified by military officials as Sergeant Major Jakrapanth Thomma – was angry over a financial dispute.

He first killed two people, a fellow soldier and a woman, then went on a far bloodier spree, shooting as he drove to the mall where shoppers fled in terror.

The man has been named as Jakraphanth Thomma. Credit: Facebook

The man also posted updates to his Facebook page during the rampage.

“No one can escape death,” read one post. Another asked, “Should I give up?” In a later post, he wrote, “I have stopped already.”

“This incident was unprecedented in Thailand,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters as he gave the final death toll on Sunday morning after visiting the wounded in hospitals.

“I hope this is the only one and the last incident, and that it never happens again. No one wants this to happen. It could be because of this person’s mental health in this particular moment,” he said.

Mr Prayuth said he was worried that people inside the mall could be accidentally hit by bullets fired by police, but added: “I have checked, that didn’t happen.”

A photo circulated on social media that appeared to be taken from the Facebook page shows a man wearing a green camouflaged military helmet while a fireball and black smoke rage behind him.

Jakrapanth’s profile picture shows him in a mask and dressed in military-style fatigues and armed with a pistol.

The background image is of a handgun and bullets. The Facebook page was made inaccessible after the shooting began.

A group of armed commando soldiers outside Terminal 21 Korat mall, in Nakhon Ratchasima. Credit: AP

Jakrapanth appeared to be armed with an assault rifle, based on security camera video aired on Thai Rath television.

The shooting spree began at about 3:30pm local time on Saturday. Video taken outside the mall showed people diving for cover as shots rang out.

Many were killed outside the mall, some in cars, others while walking.

City and neighbourhood police officers said Jakrapanth took a gun from his base and drove to the Terminal 21 Korat mall, shooting along the way.

Several Thai media reported he travelled in a military vehicle.

A wanted poster released by Crime Suppression Division of The Royal Thai Police. Credit: Crime Suppression Division of The Royal Thai Police via AP

Nattaya Nganiem and her family had just finished eating and were driving away when she heard gunfire.

“First I saw a woman run out from the mall hysterically,” said Nattaya, who shot video of the scene on her phone.

“Then a motorcycle rider in front of her just ran and left his motorcycle there.”

Hundreds of people were evacuated from the mall in small batches by police while they searched for the gunman.

“We were scared and ran to hide in toilets,” said Sumana Jeerawattanasuk, one of those rescued by police. She said seven or eight people hid in the same room as her.

“I am so glad. I was so scared of getting hurt,” she said.

Gun violence is not unheard of in Thailand. Firearms can be obtained legally, and many Thais own guns.

Mass shootings are rare, though there are occasional gun battles in the far south of the country, where authorities have for years battled a long-running separatist insurgency.

The incident in Korat comes just a month after another high-profile mall shooting, in the central Thai city of Lopburi.

In that case, a masked gunman carrying a handgun with a silencer killed three people, including a two-year-old boy, and wounded four others as he robbed a jewellery store.