A soldier angry over a property deal gone sour killed at least 29 people and wounded 57 in a rampage that spanned four locations in and around the northeastern Thai city of Nakhon Ratchasima before he was shot dead early Sunday.
Most of the victims were at the city’s Terminal 21 shopping center, where the shooter held out against an overnight siege with an assault rifle and ammunition stolen from his army base.
Police named him as 32-year-old soldier Jakrapanth Thomma. 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 traveling there to meet wounded survivors.
Prayuth added that the conflict was with a relative of the soldier’s commanding officer.
Thailand’s worst mass shooting prompted soul searching in the southeast Asian country of 69 million, where the army has long styled itself as the protector of the nation and dominated politics for decades either overtly or from behind the scenes.
Prayuth, a former military ruler, came in for criticism over his handling of the incident after he waved and smiled during a visit to the scene and made a heart gesture with his fingers. The hashtag #RIPPrayuth was trending on Thai social media.
“If you have a heart like kind Thais, you should respect relatives of the deceased with a calm and mournful manner,” commented Jirayu Houngsub, an opposition member of parliament.