One visible change in the aftermath of the Siam Paragon luxury shopping mall shooting by the 14-year-old gunman in Bangkok which led to two deaths and injured five, two serious, is the reintroduction of bag search for customers entering shopping malls and other semi-public venues. It is an inconvenience for sure, but will (like other things Thai) most likely be quietly phased out within months and life is then “back to normal” and it is “business as usual” (Thais just cannot let a lone gunman slow down their shopping experience).
We have a choice of saying this is just another freak incident, a rare tragedy, involving a sick and repressed middle class teenager which is unlikely to be repeated again and just carry on or pause, take stock, examine various factors, and ask what more can we do to reduce the chance of such a senseless act to recur anew.
Let’s start with the teenage gunman.
He is 14 so his real identity, face, and even names of parents must be kept confidential.
Unfortunately, in the wave of rage against the senseless killings, some Thai netizens have managed to spread the gunman’s photo with his face unblurred for all to see. A video clip when police first arrested the gunman inside the mall on Tuesday was also leaked on social media along with his ID. Names of parents as some are calling for the gunman to be tried as an adult and not a minor. These are how some Thais have failed the first litmus test – failing to recognize a minor as a minor and respect the accompanied rights.
What is more, the possibility that the gunman is mentally ill has to be taken into consideration. According to police chief Pol. Gen. Torsak Sukvimol, the gunman may be suffering from schizophrenia. Police present during the arrest were heard being told by the gunman someone is coming to harm him and that a voice inside his head instructed him to shoot.
Truth be told, we are still waiting for the result of a definitive psychological examination of the teenage gunman in order to see whether he is fit to stand trial in a juvenile court or were all these just made up lies in order to mitigate his accountability for the crime committed.
Talking about accountability, we did not see much from the gunman’s parents, both university lecturers. There were no words from them in the first 48 hours after the senseless killings, the time and families of those affected were in deepest shock and sorrow, although the father has since emerged and attended the funeral of the female Burmese worker who was employed at a Toy Shop at Siam Paragon and apologized to the mother of the deceased and others.
One wonders how the parents failed to spot signs that something was seriously wrong with their son. If they have an inkling that the son is mentally unstable or ill, why did they not take better care of their son? It was later discovered after a police raid at the gunman’s room that he was in possession of many bullets and shooting target papers and that he went to practice at a military-run shooting range. Did the parents not notice it and thought he might be a risk to either himself or others at all? It is too late now and it is fair to say a better and more intimate parenting might have prevented the tragedy.
What about the gunman’s school? Could the upscale private school, The Essence, which issued a statement earlier this week asking for privacy, have done more?
The school claims to pride itself in maintaining “good” and “close” relationships with its students, “Oxbridge-style,” focus on only subjects that will get students to top universities, while its head master vows in its promotional content to develop students to “achieve their dreams without losing good values of being a human.” So much for the advertisement.
In the end, the choice is upon to learn a lesson or two in an attempt to possibly mitigate the chance or such recurrence or we could just say this is a singular crime carried out by a lone gunman and most unlikely to be repeated again and thus worth asking hard questions (including gun control) or seriously examining the tragedy.