Public shock and anger over October 3’s deadly shooting rampage at Siam Paragon has turned to consternation as people realize that the 14-year-old perpetrator cannot be punished.
Thai law states that no child under the age of 15 shall face criminal punishment, including jail.
This fact prompts one question, which is now being asked loudly across Thailand: Who takes responsibility in such cases, then?
The mall shooting killed three people and injured four others.
Earlier this month, Siam Paragon offered 5 million baht in compensation to each bereaved family, and 300,000 baht to each victim injured. The government is making compensatory payments of 1.2 million baht for each death and 50,000 baht for each person wounded in the attack. Help has also been extended by others, including Giffarine Skyline Unity Ltd, which has offered 1 million baht to support the victims.
The parents of the 14-year-old shooter, whose identity has been withheld due to his age, have also vowed to accept responsibility as fully as they can in the wake of the shocking rampage.
But so far, it is not clear what the perpetrator and his family will do to aid the victims. The shooter’s father has already turned up at the funerals of the deceased to express his condolences and apologize to the loved ones left behind. He has also declined to submit a bail request for his son, saying that the family “intends to cooperate fully with the authorities in seeking the facts and to ensure that there is no repeat of the violent incident.”
Meanwhile, the boy has been admitted to the Galya Rajanagarindra Institute for psychiatric assessment.
Laws covering child offenders
Children under the age of 12 cannot be charged or punished for a crime in Thailand. Those aged between 12 and 15 are also protected from criminal punishment but may be subject to measures imposed by a court. For example, they can be placed in a juvenile protection-and-observation center, or be put on probation. Parents or guardians may also be fined up to 1,000 baht if minors under their care break the terms of probation.
Juvenile offenders aged 15 to 17 may be punished. If no penalty is meted out, they may still be sentenced to undergo rehabilitation. But if a court does rule that they deserve legal punishment, their penalty (including time behind bars) is halved.
Three other Thai laws cover offenses committed by minors: the Juvenile and Family Court and Juvenile and Family Case Procedure Act, the Child Protection Act, and the Civil and Commercial Code.
The first of these laws focuses on protecting children’s and youth’s rights/welfare, correction, and rehabilitation while the second prioritizes children’s interests and punishes anyone who coerces, forces, encourages, solicits, or allows children to violate laws.
The Civil and Commercial Code makes both adults and minors liable for crimes they commit against another person. Article 420 states that a person who unlawfully injures the life, body, health, liberty, property, or any right of another person will be held accountable. This law does not exempt minors or people who are mentally unsound. Article 429 makes the parents or guardians of the perpetrator jointly liable for his/her act – unless they can prove they have not neglected their duty of care towards the child.
Parents held accountable
There are many cases in which parents have been penalized by the Civil Court for damage or harm their children have caused.
In 2019 the parents of an underage driver paid more than 42 million baht in compensation after she caused a deadly tollway wreck. The daughter was just 16 at the time of the accident in 2010. The parents had not prevented her from using the vehicle, meaning they failed in their duty of care.
The girl was reportedly driving the sedan without a license while using the phone when she smashed into a van carrying Thammasat University students and staff, killing nine people and injuring four others. She was sentenced to three years in jail, suspended, and ordered to perform 192 hours of community service.
By Thai PBS World’s General Desk