Thai Soldier Kills at Least 20 at Military Facility, Shopping Mall

A soldier armed with military weapons went on a shooting rampage at a military facility and shopping mall in Thailand on Saturday, killing at least 20 people and injuring dozens as he posted updates on Facebook.

The gunman, identified by authorities as Sgt. Maj. Jakrapanth Thomma, first opened fire at a military facility in the country’s northeast, killing at least three officers, a military spokesman said. He then proceeded to a nearby shopping mall, where he began shooting again.

Security forces entered the mall late Saturday and had evacuated many civilians who were trapped inside the Terminal 21 mall in Nakhon Ratchasima, about 150 miles northeast of Bangkok. An operation to capture the gunman was ongoing into early Sunday.

The suspect was declared a “most wanted” person and people in nearby areas were urged to remain cautious.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said 20 people were confirmed dead and 31 others were injured, citing hospital reports.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha in a tweet expressed his condolences to the families of those who lost their lives or were injured, and said the focus was on keeping people safe.

Mass shootings are extremely rare in Thailand, though gun violence isn’t uncommon. It is legal to own a firearm with a license, and gun ownership is high compared with some neighboring countries.

The incident comes just weeks after a man was arrested for allegedly killing three people in a gold shop in the central Thai town of Lopburi.

There is also occasional violence in the country’s deep South, where authorities are battling a separatist insurgency and gunmen killed at least 15 people at a checkpoint last year.

Social-media users posted videos related to the attack on Saturday in which loud bursts of gunfire can be heard in the background and people are seen trying to run and hide.

The shooter posted updates about the attack on his Facebook accounts, which the social-media platform has removed.

“There is no place on Facebook for people who commit this kind of atrocity, nor do we allow people to praise or support this attack,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.

Facebook said it removed a live-streamed video posted by the gunman, but the video lasted for just seconds and didn’t include violence. The company’s content moderation teams were watching for the video’s re-emergence or any content praising the shooter in both Thai and other languages.

Facebook said that it had labeled some videos taken by witnesses of the shooting as disturbing, but was allowing them to raise awareness of the event. A spokeswoman encouraged any Facebook users who encountered content about the attack to report it using the platform’s tools.

Last March, a shooter used Facebook to live-stream a white supremacist attack that left 51 people dead at New Zealand mosques.

The social-media platform left the video up on its site for half an hour after a user brought it to the company’s attention, drawing widespread criticism. Copies of the video proliferated on the internet.

Social-media platforms have struggled to block, uncover and remove violent content in part due to the sheer volume of material posted by the platforms’ billions of users. They have invested in artificial-intelligence systems designed to detect violence, and have hired thousands of moderators who review content flagged by users.

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