Mon, November 29, 2021


A needless tragedy whose trigger was in the mind

The past decade has seen a rising level of sensationalism in Thai society, super-charged by the opinions and emotions expressed through the social media. 

One example came with the fatal shooting on February 4 of a 17-year-old high school student by a middle-aged engineer.
The shooting took place in Chon Buri after an argument between Suthep Poshsomboon, 50-year-old engineer, and a group of teenagers over parking at a local market. The argument turned into a fistfight before Suthep, who was driving a car occupied by his wife, his mother and his nephew, drew a gun and fired the fatal shot. 
Debate on the incident has raged in both the mainstream and the social media.
Ambiguous facts and sketchy details have helped fuel fiery online clashes over the circumstances that led to the killing.
The mother and friends of the dead teenager have accused the shooter of overreacting, which has added even more heat to an already divisive social media debate.
One side supports the engineer, some going so far as to vow they would have emptied their magazine if faced with the same situation. Several celebrities have joined the debate, most of them sympathising with the shooter. But the other side questions whether his action was excessive.
At first, all the public had to go on was surveillance camera footage that offered a view from above of the end of the incident. The clip gave little clue as to how and why the tragedy occurred.
Then a clip recorded by the dashboard camera in Suthep’s car was released, including conversation between Suthep and his wife that drew public sympathy for the engineer.
But when two more clips from Suthep’s dashboard cameras were released, revealing earlier scenes of the incident, a clearer picture emerged of why this case of road rage led to tragedy for the boy and his family. Suthep’s supporters were suddenly fewer and less vocal.
Given this latest evidence it seems that Suthep and some students in the van could be charged.
Pol Maj-General Somprasong Yentuam said that initial examination of the CCTV footage showed a number of offences had been committed, including double parking, speeding and reckless driving.
Suthep has been charged with the lethal use of a firearm and murder, and has been granted bail. And police will today summon three teenagers from the group to face assault charges, after Suthep filed a complaint, accusing them of assaulting him.
As events unfold, the heated public debate is slowly giving way to more measured judgement. Although justice is now taking its course, there are lessons to be learned from the incident:
For drivers and other road users, maintain good road manners or you might end up in jail or worse. Remaining patient and calm especially under pressure will help you avoid negative consequences.
For social media users, don’t jump the gun by presuming or taking sides. Supporting vigilante actions risks triggering more division in society and leading to another tragedy. This happened to Suthep, who faced threats that his children would be shot in revenge. The shooter has even asked police for protection.
Last but not least, the tragedy could have been avoided from the beginning if all those involved had shown a little patience and self-awareness.
Suthep could have waited or just told the other driver politely to move his van so that he could leave the parking bay.
Both Suthep and the dead boy are now victims of their own lack of care and thought.
For every decision there is a price to pay.  

Published : February 13, 2017

By : Jintana Panyaarvudh [email protected]