BANGKOK (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): The shooting started in a female restroom in Siam Paragon, said the niece of one of the victims who was killed in the incident in the Bangkok shopping mall on Tuesday (Oct 3).
The niece, identified on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo as Chloe Wan, said late on Tuesday that she and some of her family members were hiding in the toilet’s cubicles when the shooting happened.
She said that as they were hiding, her aunt and two other unidentified women had collapsed in the toilet on the second floor, after they failed to enter the refuge of a cubicle.
Wan said on Weibo that employees of the Chinese embassy have visited her family at their hotel. She revealed that her aunt had three daughters, including a pair of five-year-old twins, all of whom were visiting Thailand together.
Wan, who is based in Beijing, shared photos of one of the girls carrying a bloodied white backpack, with her clothes also stained with red spots.
One of the daughters was sheltered by a local in the mall amid the chaos on Tuesday evening, as some shoppers hid in retail outlets of the sprawling nine-storey building while hundreds fled amid torrential rain outside.
In an emotional social media post, the unnamed woman from Thailand said she stayed with the girl while her mother was receiving medical attention, promising that they would be reunited soon.
Unfortunately, the girl’s mother, Wan’s aunt, was later confirmed dead at the scene, news of which led to the Thai woman labelling Tuesday as “the most sorrowful day of her life”.
China’s embassy in Thailand said on Tuesday night that one Chinese national was killed in the incident with another injured.
Thai police arrested the suspected perpetrator of the incident, a 14-year-old boy who was a student of a private school close to Siam Paragon.
He was reportedly receiving psychiatric treatment and surrendered after running out of bullets.
Two women were killed, with the other victim from Myanmar. At least five others were wounded, including a mall security guard.
Wan, who escaped the ordeal with scratches, added on Weibo on Tuesday that her mother was also hurt and taken to hospital after the shooting, but had no life-threatening injuries.
Her family had been scheduled to leave Thailand for Beijing at 3am on Wednesday, but those plans have been shelved. Her father will be flying from China to join the group in Bangkok instead.
Thousands of Weibo users responded to Wan’s post, with most sending messages of support and encouragement, while some who were based in Bangkok offered Thai translation assistance.
One Weibo user shared an image of the suspect at a shooting range in Bangkok, saying he saw him practising there days ago.
Siam Paragon is one of the more prominent shopping malls in central Bangkok, and is easily accessed by locals and tourists via the connecting metro station.
A group of Chinese tourists said they were sheltered by retail staff, Chinese daily The Paper reported.
One tourist identified as Ge Lan said she was shopping at the mall at around 4pm when the emergency alarm went off.
She initially mistook the commotion in the crowded mall as a reaction to celebrities arriving for a promotional event, but belatedly realised people were fleeing after hearing gunshots.
The shooting incident comes as Thailand started a five-month visa-waiver entry to the kingdom for travellers and tour groups from China, as Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin looks to return tourism receipts to pre-pandemic numbers.
Nearly 11 million people from China visited Thailand in 2019, a number that constituted more than a quarter of all arrivals to the country before the Covid-19 pandemic that decimated travel.
Both Srettha and deputy premier Parnpree Bahiddha-nukara, also the Minister of Foreign Affairs, called China’s ambassador to Thailand, Han Zhiqiang, to express condolences on behalf of the Thai government, China’s embassy in Thailand said on its website.
The Thai leaders said authorities will strengthen public security management and work to ensure a reliable and safe environment for Chinese citizens coming to Thailand. Mr Srettha also visited the injured Chinese nationals in hospital after Tuesday’s shooting.
Chinese tourists were seen on Wednesday morning placing flowers at the entrance of Siam Paragon to express their condolences.