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Grand Theft Auto Banned After Copycat Killing

GTA IV pulled after teen kills taxi driver while recreating scene from game

19-year-old killed a taxi driver
(Reuters) Police officers watch as Polwat Chino (second from right), 19 year-old Grand Theft Auto-inspired killer, re-enacts his attack on a Taxi driver in Bangkok.

CYBERSPACE, 2008 (D.O.T.) - One of the largest video game distributors in Asia has halted sales of the Grand Theft Auto IV in Thailand after a teenager confessed to robbing and murdering a taxi driver while trying to recreate a scene from the game.

New Era Interactive said it had sent a note to all of its Thai stores telling them to pull the game off the shelves after a 19-year old high-school student confessed to killing a taxi driver with a knife.

Police in Bangkok said that the youth "had wanted to find out if it was as easy in real life to rob a taxi as it was in the game."

"We are urging all video game arcades to pull the game from service," said a spokesman for New Era Interactive, which has offices in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Polwat Chino, described by his parents as polite and diligent, was arrested after he was found trying to steer a cab backwards out of a Bangkok street with the severely wounded driver in the back seat, according to local newspaper reports.

He had paid to play the game at a local shop, and said he had needed more cash to continue playing it and that the taxi driver looked like an easy target.

Neighbors called police as they heard the youth pressing the car's horn while reversing down a dead end street. He had been trying to drive away - apparently in an attempt to recreate a scene from the game in which a criminal steals a car to evade police - but was unable to control a real car, police said.

The victim, a 54-year-old man from a poor northern province, had been stabbed ten times.

A police spokesman said Mr. Chino, 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. In a statement, Mr. Chino told police: "I needed money to play the game every day. My parents give me only 100 baht a day, which is not enough. I am also fed up with them fighting. They are civil servants and do not make good money."

"My mother gave me 500 baht (about $15 USD), so in the evening I went to the Tesco Lotus superstore and bought two knives." Police have charged Mr. Chino with robbery, causing death and possessing offensive weapons. If found guilty, he faces death by lethal injection.

A senior official at Thailand's Culture Ministry, which has been pursuing tougher regulation of violent games such as Grand Theft Auto, said the murder was a wake-up call for authorities, and urged parents to take note of what their children were playing.

"This time-bomb has already exploded and the situation could get worse," the official was quoted as saying. "Today it is a cab driver but tomorrow it could be a video game shop owner." Thai authorities have been pushing for a rating system on video games, as well as restrictions on how long youths can spend playing games in video arcades.

Grand Theft Auto, which is published by the Scottish company Rockstar and has raised more than $1 billion (500 million) this year, has been criticized for depicting violent scenes such as beatings, car-jackings, and drive-by shootings.

By Jonathan Richards

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