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HomethailandgeneralTeen suspect held on shopping mall murder charges

Teen suspect held on shopping mall murder charges

A 14-year-old boy facing murder and other charges in connection with the Siam Paragon shootings has been remanded to a juvenile detention centre where he will undergo a psychiatric assessment.

The teen, heavily guarded by police and his face covered to protect his identity, appeared on Wednesday in Juvenile Court, a day after a shooting spree at the Bangkok shopping mall left two people dead and five others wounded.

The court denied a request to have the suspect sent to the Galya Rajanagarindra Institute for psychiatric treatment until he was capable of taking part in his defence. The judges said it had yet to be established whether he had a mental condition.

Police who arrested the teen on Tuesday said he was too “confused” to give them a coherent story, and that he said he had heard voices telling him to shoot people.

Investigators have initially pressed five charges against the boy: premeditated murder, attempted murder, illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, illegally carrying a weapon, and firing shots in a public place.

Other charges may be laid later, said Pol Maj Gen Nakharin Sukhonthawit, commander of Metropolitan Police Division 6.

Investigators were also considering whether the boy’s parents should be charged under the Child Protection Act, he added. They did not show up at the court on Wednesday to apply for bail for their son.

Maj Gen Nakharin said a search of the suspect’s room at his home in the Lak Song area had found a BB gun and many rounds of ammunition. Investigators would make that a separate case.

The boy was arrested shortly after a young gunman went on a shooting spree inside Siam Paragon in Pathumwan district just before the evening peak hours on Tuesday. Two foreign women were killed: a 34-year-old from China who was shopping with her young twin daughters, and a young woman from Myanmar who worked at the mall. Five people — three Thais, a Chinese and a Lao — were wounded, two of them critically. Shoppers fled from the mall in panic.

Thongchai Keeratihattayakorn, head of the Department of Medical Services, said on Wednesday that the young suspect had been treated about one year ago at The Queen Sirikit National Institute of Child Health, known as the children’s hospital. He declined to disclose further details, citing patient confidentiality. The boy might have also sought treatment at other hospitals, he added.

Dr Thongchai was responding to reports that the suspect had previously been treated for mental issues at Rajavithi Hospital.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on Wednesday vowed “preventive measures” after the shooting at the mall.

“I am confident Siam Paragon and government officials did their best to minimise the casualties and damage,” he said after joining in a minute’s silence at the mall. He offered his government’s condolences to the families of the slain women.

“Let this be the only time this happens. My government will give priority to preventive measures,” he added, without giving details. (Story continues below)

A relative of a young woman from Myanmar who was killed on Tuesday mourns next to her coffin at the Central Institute of Forensic Science in Bangkok. (Photo: Reuters)

Past promises

Pol Lt Gen Samran Nuanma, assistant national police chief, told a news conference on Wednesday that the weapon used in the attack was a pistol intended to fire blanks.

“But the barrel was modified for live shooting,” he said. “We will increase regulations and laws to control the use of firearms.”

However, repeated promises of tightening gun laws in the past have not prevented tragedies.

The Siam Paragon shooting occurred just one year after the Oct 6, 2022 massacre at a child care centre in Nong Bua Lamphu province that left 36 people dead, most of them children. And in 2020, a former soldier gunned down 29 people in a rampage that climaxed in a shopping mall in Nakhon Ratchasima.

By one estimate, Thailand has 10 million guns in circulation — one for every seven citizens, and one of the highest rates of ownership in the region. Many firearms are smuggled into the country, but Kritsanapong Phutrakul, a former police officer and now academic, said internet sales were becoming a problem.

“Only a small number of police officers have the knowledge, capabilities and experience to track the gun market online,” he said.

A tourist from Taiwan places candles outside Siam Paragon shopping mall on Wednesday evening in memory of the victims of Tuesday’s shooting. (Photo: Reuters)

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