'Don't blame Thai army'

World | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 12 Feb 2020

An emotional Thai army chief yesterday urged a nation in mourning over a mass shooting "not to blame the army" after a soldier gunned down at least 29 people in a rampage linked to a debt dispute with a senior officer.

General Apirat Kongsompong broke down in tears as he apologized on behalf of the army to victims of the shooting during a televised press conference.

The gunman - Sergeant-Major Jakrapanth Thomma - was shot dead by a commando unit on Sunday morning.

The Thai army has been at pains to portray him as a rogue soldier rather than a product of the army system.

Apirat said he would not stand down from his post in charge of an army which has seeped into all aspects of Thai life and has a mega-billion budget that has surged since the 2014 coup.

"The army is a huge organization comprising of hundreds of thousands staff...I cannot focus on every subordinate," he said.

"There are people who criticize the army, I urge them not to blame the army because the army is a sacred organization," adding "blame me - General Apirat."

Instead, he pledged to open a "special channel" to investigate all future complaints from junior officers about their superiors, blaming the attack on a debt dispute between the gunman and his commanding officer.

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