Monday, 4 August 2008

Grand Theft Auto pulled from sale after Bangkok teen murders taxi driver 'to see if it was as easy as in the game'

04th August 2008

A teenager is facing death by lethal injection after stabbing a taxi driver to death with a knife bought from his local Tesco in a chilling 'Grand Theft Auto' copycat killing.

Now a Thai video game distributor has halted sales of 'Grand Theft Auto' today as backlash against the controversially violent game began.

The 18-year-old high school student, named in reports as Polwat Chino, is now in custody. He faces death by lethal injection if found guilty of robbing and killing the 54-year-old taxi driver over the weekend.


Copycat killing: Police watch as the suspect, second right, re-enacts the crime in Bangkok yesterday

Police said the youth, an obsessive player of 'Grand Theft Auto', showed no sign of mental problems during questioning and had confessed to committing the crime because of the game.

'He said he wanted to find out if it was as easy in real life to rob a taxi as it was in the game,' chief police investigator Veeravit Pipattanasak said.

The youth, described by his parents as polite and diligent, was arrested late on Saturday after he was found trying to steer a cab backwards out of a Bangkok street with the severely wounded driver in the back seat, newspapers reported.

The suspect told police he did not mean to kill the driver, whom he had chosen as a possible victim because of his age, but that he stabbed him to death when he fought back, newspapers reported.

"We are sending out requests today to outlets and shops to pull the games off their shelves and we will replace them with other games," Sakchai Chotikachinda, sales and marketing director of New Era Interactive Media, said.


Grand Theft Auto IV: The controversial game has been pulled in Thailand after the attack

"We are also urging video game arcades to pull the games from service," Sakchai said.

"Grand Theft Auto", now available in its fourth edition, has been criticised for depicting violence including beatings, carjackings, drive-by shootings, drunk driving and prostitution.

A senior official at Thailand's Culture Ministry said the murder was a wake-up call for authorities to tackle the issue of violent video games, and urged parents to pay closer attention to what their children played.

"This time-bomb has already exploded and the situation could get worse," Ladda Thangsupachai, director of the ministry's Cultural Surveillance Centre, said.

"Today it is a cab driver, but tomorrow it could be a video game shop owner."

The ministry has been pushing for tougher regulation of video games such as Grand Theft Auto, including the imposition of a rating system on sales and restriction on hours that youngsters can play the games in public arcades.

A multi-million dollar lawsuit was filed in the U.S. state of Alabama against the makers and marketers of Grand Theft Auto in 2005, claiming that months of playing the game led a teenager to kill two police officers and a 911 dispatcher.

The blockbuster Grand Theft Auto games are published by Nasdaq-listed Take-Two Interactive Software.


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