As hundreds of Thais attended a vigil to honour the victims of a mass shooting that killed 29 people at the weekend, the stories of those who sheltered children and others fleeing the massacre have given mourners a measure of hope.
- The massacre has sent shockwaves through the peaceful Thai city
- Hundreds of people attended a vigil to honour the victims
- PM Prayuth Chan-ocha described the mass shooting as “unprecedented”
The gunman, identified as 32-year-old soldier Jakrapanth Thomma, went on a shooting rampage late on Saturday, opening fire at various locations around the city of Nakhon Ratchasima before holing himself up at a shopping mall for 17 hours.
Saowalak Sudtharattanakul, 51, runs an internet cafe just 100 metres down the road from the Terminal 21 shopping mall.
She sheltered dozens of people who fled the mall as shooting continued throughout the night.
“[There were] 30 to 40 people, there were some people coming in and some were going out,” she told the ABC.
“It was like that the whole night long until the morning.
“I was frightened. This is something that has never happened before, but we will get through this.”
Emergency services volunteer Ponawat Boonchit, 34, helped casualties who the gunman had shot at a nearby Buddhist temple.
He then saw the attacker outside the mall.
“I prevented the school children who were in front of the [nearby] school [from being shot],” he said.
“The gunman was starting to spray bullets, so whoever was there would have been in trouble.
“Then I was helping them to hide in alleys around the area to keep them away.”
‘Heartbreaking’ tragedy shocks peaceful city
Mass shootings are rare in Thailand, and locals in the city 250 kilometres north-west of Bangkok are deeply affected by the violent incident.
Nakhon Ratchasima, also known as Korat, is a city of 200,000 people but is based in a rural province, and locals say it’s known for its peaceful way of life.
Patmanee Sudprasertsiri, 55, attended the vigil, which was led by monks and included a blessing for the crowd with holy water.
“I wanted to join forces and get together to show that people from Korat and all Thais are sad with this heartbreaking incident,” she said.
“It shouldn’t happen … even though they are not our relatives, we feel the loss as well.”
Paul, 41, attended the vigil with his girlfriend.
“We came here tonight because we are shocked by the tragedy,” he told the ABC.
“We are joining here because we have to show respect after the tragedy, that’s why we are here.”
Attack ‘unprecedented’: PM
Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has described the event as “unprecedented”.
There are still limited details on the shooter’s motive for the attack.
“It was a personal conflict over a house deal. [The gunman] had an issue with money and fought for three days,” he said.
“Nobody expected it to turn violent.”
According to Reuters, the shooting unfolded over four locations, with the gunman posting messages to Facebook throughout the prolonged attack.
Jakrapanth arrived at a house and, after an argument over property, shot dead his commanding officer, along with a female relative of the officer.
He then went to an army base where he worked, killed an army guard and stole weapons and a Humvee.
He stopped at the Buddhist temple and opened fire as authorities pursued him, killing around nine people, before driving to the shopping mall and opening fire on panicked shoppers.
The soldier posted another message on his Facebook page: “Death is inevitable for everyone.”
Facebook later shut down the shooter’s account.
Police brought the shooter’s crying mother from her home in Chaiyaphum province to Nakhon Ratchasima to help ask him to surrender.
Thai security forces then stormed into the mall and helped hundreds of trapped people escape.
Security forces eventually closed in and shot and killed the gunman.