Police Will Boost Rescue Skills

The police involved in Thursday’s shooting spree and hostage drama in Bangkok are not skilled in hostage rescue, national police chief Wichean Potephosree says.

He said the officers had received some hostage rescue training but they did not belong to a specialist squad.

Pol Gen Wichean said the officers deserved sympathy as they had only been assigned to normal duties during the Songkran holidays.

The police are under pressure to explain their response to the drama, in which Thada Inthamas, a 37-year-old computer repairman, took a woman hostage after earlier killing a policeman and a taxi driver, and injuring a traffic policeman in a bloody rampage which started in Nonthaburi.

Thada, from Nakhon Si Thammarat, stole two cars, including that of his hostage, Pipatra Sailohit, a doctor at Surararee Army Camp.

When police finally caught up with the stolen vehicle on Phaya Thai Road near Victory Monument, they shot at the car, killing gunman Thada who was at the wheel.

Dr Pipatra was in the passenger seat of the car when police opened fire. She sustained four bullet wounds, probably as a result of police fire.

Dr Pipatra, who is now in safe condition at Rajavithi Hospital, said the shots that injured her must have come from outside the car because Thada pointed his gun to her head the whole time. He did not shoot her himself.

Police admit that some officers did not know the woman was in the car, which had black tinted windows. However, they say they were obliged to try to stop the man before he did any more harm.

Their response has raised questions of professionalism in police handling of hostage situations.

Pol Gen Wichean said the police were duty-bound to move in and help the hostage. Whether anyone will be responsible for the injuries to the doctor will be decided by an internal inquiry, now underway.

The police normally go through an emergency rescue exercise at least once a year. The exercise involves hostage rescue, terrorism combat and crowd containment. The police chief said such exercises would be held more often from now on.

Meanwhile, Dr Pipatra said she would undergo a second operation this week to remove another bullet from her body.

The 28-year-old doctor has four bullet wounds to the stomach, arms and back. The bullet which lodged in her stomach has been removed.

She said doctors have not decided which bullet will be taken out next.

Dr Pipatra said she expected to be discharged at the end of the month or the middle of next month at the latest.

Luckana Sailohit, her mother, said the insurance company had promised to pay for damage to the car. As a victim in a criminal case, Dr Pipatra was also entitled to receive up to 100,000 baht in compensation, said the Rights and Liberties Protection Department.

Thada’s body was returned to Nakhon Si Thammarat yesterday after an autopsy. Police say early results suggest he was high on methamphetamines.

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