A Thai soldier who embarked on a shooting rampage on Saturday, killed at least 17 people and injured 21 others before fleeing into a shopping mall.
Police spokesman Police Colonel Krissana Pattanacharoen confirmed the casualties in a statement.
Krissana advised people to refrain from publishing footage from the scene that could hinder the work of security officials.
Military commander Lt.-Gen. Thanya Kiatsarn said that security forces were trying to apprehend the gunman, who is believed to be in the mall’s basement where he has reportedly taken hostages.
Thanya identified the shooter as Corporal Jakrapanth Thomma who reportedly posted updates of the attack on his Facebook page before it became inaccessible.
The violent spree took place in Nakhon Ratchasima province, 260 kilometres north-east of Bangkok.
The attack allegedly began when the suspect killed his commanding officer and the officer’s mother-in-law at a village, according to Thai news outlet Matichon.
Jakrapanth then reportedly fled to a military camp and stole heavy artillery and a military humvee.
He allegedly shot and killed several security officials as he fled to a Buddhist temple, where the suspect is said to have opened fire, killing and injuring worshippers.
The attack then continued at a major shopping mall where Jakrapanth allegedly began shooting at shoppers in the parking lot and carried on shooting as he made his way into the building, Matichon reported.
Thai newspaper Thairath published a message from a Facebook user who said that her friend was trapped inside the mall where the suspect is reported to have taken 16 hostages.
Matichon published posts from social media users inside the mall who said that they were hiding from continuous rounds of gunfire.
Thai police’s Crime Suppression Division has opened up a hotline for those who are still in the shopping centre.
“For those who are trapped in the mall – remain calm, hide in a safe place, and turn off the sound of your phones.
“Currently, police officers of every department have sent forces to help everyone to the fullest. You can send your location, the amount of people you’re with, and a callback number to the inbox of the Crime Suppression Division,” the police division said in a Twitter post at around 10:30 pm (1530 GMT).
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha wrote on Facebook that he had ordered officials to look after those affected and offered his condolences to the families of all victims.