Last night’s bizarre, serpentine spectacle in front of a Bangkok shopping mall was just the latest in a series of similar incidents involving a volatile man now in protective custody.
The man, who stopped his Mercedes-Benz in front of CentralWorld to menace onlookers with two cobras and one large knife, was spotted causing similar disturbances at two other malls in recent days. Police, who said a family loss might have contributed to his break, said the man claimed to not be in control of his actions.
“He told me that he was in a hysterical frenzy the whole time. That something was telling him to cut himself and test how thick his skin was,” said investigator Susiriwong Yongwong of Lumpini police.
Lt. Col. Susiriwong said the 44-year-old man works in real estate and owns a tailoring shop. Given the likelihood of mental illness in his behavior, Coconuts Bangkok is withholding his identity.
After stopping his car at about 6:30pm on Wednesday, the man arranged several portraits of His Majesty the King on the windshield, spread flower petals, set cobras loose in the street and prostrated on the ground in prayer. He also waved around a knife he later used to cut himself, to the horror of bewildered onlookers. Despite some media reports, police said both snakes survived their ordeal.
Lumpini police had him in custody by 7pm and he is now undergoing psychological evaluation.
“He cut himself on both arms but they were very small wounds, only about 3-4 centimeters long,” said inspector Susiriwong. Nevertheless, he was transported to Chulalongkorn Hospital for medical care.
After that blew up on Twitter, some pointed out that the same man had caused similar scenes at several other malls in recent days.
“The other day I saw him screaming that he loves the king in MBK. He kept repeating it very loudly,” Twitter user @Wpxz_ 15h15 wrote.
วันก่อนเจอไปคุกเข่าตะโกน รักในหลวง ในMBK ดังมากหลายครั้ง ไม่รู้ปกติหรือเปล่า
— เรียนหนักมากกกกก เหน่ย (@wpxz_) April 24, 2019
Another Twitter user posted a photo of what appears to be the same man wearing the same yellow polo shirt at MBK on Sunday as seen last night outside CentralWorld.
วันอาทิต เพิ่งมาเดินโวยวายที่ MBK pic.twitter.com/WHZvowm858
— Hanako (@hanakojung2011) April 24, 2019
Yet another purported witness chimed into say he saw the same guy yelling and pouring water over his head inside the Platinum Fashion Mall on Petchaburi Road.
— \7 ฟ้าสรุปพ่อมึงจะได้เป็นนายกมั้ย \7 (@hiamjkd) April 24, 2019
Susiriwong acknowledged the man’s deep reverence for the royal family, but dismissed theories that last night’s incident was a political statement. The inspector said the man has no known history of mental illness, but hasn’t been the same since his mother passed away in December, according to his family.
“His cousins say he started getting depressed and stressed. All he does is pray and talk about the gods. … It sounds like he blames himself for his mother’s death, like he didn’t take care of her well enough,” Susiriwong said, noting the man was a Thai national of Indian descent.
“He would slip in and out of coherency during questioning. At times he would stop and start praying. He would make sense one minute and not the next,” he added.
He could be charged with causing a public disturbance, carrying a weapon and disturbing traffic.