At least 36 killed in attack at child care center

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A disgraced former police officer in northeast Thailand killed at least 36 people, mostly children, on Thursday in a shooting spree that began at a daycare center and ended at his own home, killing his family and himself. the authorities said.

National Police Chief Gen. Dumrongsak Kittiprapas said the attacks began around 12:30 p.m. local time in Nong Bua Lamphu province, some 330 miles northeast of Bangkok. At least 19 boys, three girls and two adults were killed at the daycare center before the suspected gunman, identified as former police officer Panya Khamrab, drove off and shot indiscriminately at people in the street, police said.

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The suspect drove home and killed his wife and son before killing himself, police said. At least 37 people, including the killer, died in the attack in one of Thailand’s poorest areas, according to police spokesman Archayon Kraithong.

A witness told Thai TV station Kom Chad Leuk they locked the door of the building when they saw the suspect approach with a pistol, but he fired through.

“The deceased teacher had a child in her arms,” ​​said the woman, whose name was not given. “I didn’t think he was going to kill kids, but he shot the door and shot right through it.”

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Sukwimol told the Bangkok Post that Panya, 34, appeared to be under the influence of drugs at the time of the attack. The Post reported that Panya was fired from the police force in June and has been charged with possession of methamphetamine pills.

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Deputy National Police Chief Gen. Torsak Sukwimol told the Post the gunman’s mother told him her son went to court Thursday morning to attend a hearing on his drug case. After leaving the court, he seemed stressed, took some drugs and started to feel paranoid, Torsak quoted the mother as saying.

Panya then went to daycare, where he was apparently upset when he couldn’t find his child. He opened fire on employees who were having lunch outside, Torsak said. Panya then went inside. Most of the children were asleep and many of them were killed with a knife, Torsak said.

Photos and video of the scene posted online showed sleeping mats scattered in a preschool room, the floor smeared with blood, with pictures of letters and other colorful wall decorations.

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Videos carried the sound of wailing as distraught family members cried and looked on outside the kindergarten building. Ambulances stood by while police and medical personnel entered the schoolyard.

Mass killings are rare in Thailand

Mass shootings are rare in Thailand, although in 2020 a soldier opened fire at a mall and other locations in the southern Thai city of Nakhon Ratchasima, killing 29 and wounding 58 others.

Firearm-related deaths in Thailand are much lower than countries like the United States and Brazil, but higher than countries like Japan and Singapore, which have strict gun control laws. The rate of firearm-related deaths was about 4 per 100,000 in 2019, compared to about 11 per 100,000 in the US and almost 23 per 100,000 in Brazil.

Contribution: The Associated Press

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