Sakchai Lalit / AP
UTHAI SAWAN, Thailand – Relatives grieving an incredible loss Friday lay flowers at a day care center in rural northeast Thailand where a policeman was fired slaughtered dozens of peopleincluding young children around 2 years old taking a nap.
The whole country is reeling from Thursday’s horrific attack on a small town nestled among rice paddies in one of the poorest areas of the nation. At least 24 of the 36 people killed in the attack, Thailand’s deadliest mass shooting, were children.
Seksan Sriraj, 28, who lost his pregnant wife to childbirth this month in the attack at the Child Development Center, said: “I cried until there were no more tears. Uthai Sawan.
“My wife and children have returned to a safe place. I will have to live if I am still alive. If I cannot continue, my wife and children will worry about me, and they will not be reborn in the next life,” he said.
Government and royal representatives in white military uniforms laid wreaths at ceremonial tables in front of the center’s main entrance on Friday morning, as a translucent Thai flag flew at a height of more than half a foot. Following them were weeping family members, who clasped their hands in prayer before placing white flowers on the wooden floor.
Then, villagers lined the streets of the town like a line of ambulances bringing the bodies back to the day care center so waiting relatives could receive them.
Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida are expected to visit hospitals later, where seven of the 10 injured remain. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha is expected to visit the day care center and hospitals. A vigil was planned in a central park in Bangkok.
Police identified the attacker as Panya Kamrap, 34, a former police sergeant fired earlier this year for his involvement in methamphetamine. He is due to appear in court on Friday. An employee told a Thai television station that her son Panya had attended the nursery but had not been there for about a month.
When asked if he thought the center was safe enough, Seksan said the attacker was a police officer. “He came to do what he had in mind and was determined to do it. I think everyone did the best they could.”
Witnesses said the attacker shot a man and child in front of the center before walking towards it. The teachers had locked the front glass door, but the gunman shot and kicked through it. The children, mostly 2- and 3-year-olds, were napping and photos taken by first responders showed their tiny bodies still resting on blankets. In some images, slashes to the face of victims and gunshots can be seen in the head.
Panya took his own life after killing his wife and children at home.
The attack took place in Nongbua Lamphu province, one of the poorest regions of the country.
In an interview with Amarin TV, Satita Boonsom, who works at the day care center, said staff locked the door to the building after seeing the attacker shoot a child and its father right away. front. But the attacker broke the glass and continued to attack children and workers with his knife and gun.
Satita said she and three other teachers climbed over the nursery’s fence to escape and called the police and sought help. By the time she returned, the children were already dead. She said a child covered in blankets survived the attack, likely because the attacker assumed he was dead.
She said the center usually had about 70 to 80 children, but fewer at the time of the attack because the semester was over for older children and also because the school bus couldn’t run because of the weather. rain.
“They won’t survive,” she said.
Satita added that the attacker’s son had not been to the day care center recently because he was ill.
One of the youngest survivors was a 3-year-old boy riding a tricycle approaching his mother and grandmother when the attacker began slashing them with a knife. According to local media, the mother died from her daughter’s injuries, and the boy and grandmother are being treated at the hospital.
Mass shootings are rare but not unheard of in Thailand, which has the highest civilian gun ownership rate in Asia, with 15.1 firearms per 100 people compared to just 0. 3 in Singapore and 0.25 in Japan. This is still far below the US rate of 120.5 per 100 people, according to a 2017 survey by Australian nonprofit GunPolicy.org.
Support and condolences poured in from all over the world. “All Australians send their love and condolences,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese wrote on Twitter. “This violence is both senseless and heartbreaking,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
“I am deeply saddened by the horrific shooting at a child care center in Thailand,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres wrote on Twitter.
Of Thailand the worst mass shooting ever involves a disgruntled soldier who opened fire in and around a shopping mall in the northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima in 2020, killing 29 people and holding off security forces for about 16 hours before finally killed by them.
Nearly 60 others were injured in that attack. Its death toll has surpassed that of the worst previous attack on civilians, a 2015 bombing at a temple in Bangkok that killed 20 people. It is believed to have been carried out by traffickers in retaliation for a crackdown on their network.
Last month, an employee shoot colleagues at Thailand’s Army War College in Bangkok, killing two and wounding another before he was captured.