- Total death toll including the shooter is 37 – police
- Attacker kills 24 children, 13 adults in rampage
- The Thai Daycare was for children aged 2-5 years
- Most of the child victims were stabbed – police
- The attacker killed his wife and child and shot himself
NA KLANG, Thailand (Reuters) – A former police officer killed 34 people, including 23 children, in a knife-and-gun rampage at a daycare center in northeast Thailand on Thursday, before later shooting his wife and child home and turning his gun against yourself.
In one of the world’s worst fatalities in a massacre by a single murderer in recent history, most of the children who died at the day care center in Uthai Sawan, a town 500 km (310 miles) northeast of Bangkok, were stabbed to death,” police said .
The children at the daycare ranged in age from two to five years, a local official told Reuters.
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Police identified the attacker as a former member of the force who was fired from his post last year on drug charges and was on trial on a drug charge.
The man was in court earlier in the day and then went to the daycare to pick up his child, police spokesman Paisal Luesomboon told ThaiPBS.
When he didn’t find his child there, he went on a killing spree, Paisal said. “He started shooting, slashing and killing children at Uthai Sawan Daycare,” Paisal said.
“It’s a scene nobody wants to see. From the first step I walked in, it felt devastating,” Piyalak Kingkaew, a veteran emergency responder who leads the first responder team, told Reuters.
“We’ve been through this before, but this incident is very upsetting because they are young children.”
A large van, which police said contained the bodies of 22 people, mostly children, was seen by Reuters as it pulled away from a police station bound for the town of Udon Thani, 80 km away, where autopsies were to be carried out.
“I ASKED HIM FOR MERCY”
A Reuters photographer also saw the body of the gunman, Panya Khamrapm, in a body bag late Thursday, being taken by a van to a police station in the province.
Photos taken by the rescue team at the daycare and shared with Reuters showed the tiny bodies of those killed on blankets. Abandoned juice boxes lay scattered on the floor.
“He came up to me and I begged him for mercy, I didn’t know what to do,” one distraught woman told ThaiPBS, fighting back tears.
“He didn’t say anything, he shot the door while the children were sleeping,” said another woman, distraught.
Police said the attacker’s gun was a 9mm handgun and that it was legally obtained.
The Thai police chief said the perpetrator tried to enter the premises and mostly used a knife in the killings.
“Then he got out and started killing everyone he met on the way with a gun or a knife until he got home. We surrounded his house and then found out that he had committed suicide in his house,” Damrongsak Kittiprapas told reporters.
He said some children survived, without giving details.
About 30 children were inside the facility — a pink, one-story building surrounded by lawn and small palm trees — when the attacker arrived, fewer than usual as heavy rain had kept many people away, said county official Jidapa Boonsom, who was working in at the time a nearby office.
“The gunman came in around noon and first shot dead four or five officers at the daycare,” Jidapa told Reuters.
The attacker entered a locked room where the children were sleeping, Jidapa said. A teacher who was eight months pregnant was also among those stabbed, she said.
The massacre is among the worst involving children killed by one person. Anders Breivik killed 69 people, mostly teenagers, at a summer camp in Norway in 2011, while other cases killed 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut in 2012, 16 at Dunblane in Scotland in 1996 and 19 in another case came to school in Uvalde, Texas, that year.
In the 2004 hostage-taking at the Beslan school in Russia, 186 children were killed by a group of kidnappers.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-Ocha was due to visit the region on Friday. In a statement on Facebook, he called Thursday’s killing spree a “shocking incident.”
Prayut ordered all government agencies to fly the national flags at half-mast on Friday to mark a tragedy that “had grieved the entire nation,” said his spokeswoman Anusha Burapchaisri.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida will visit families of the victims in Udon Thani, according to a local announcement on Friday.
The government said it will provide financial assistance to the families to cover funeral expenses and medical treatment.
The White House and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres both expressed their shock at the attack and offered their condolences to the families of the victims.
Gun laws are strict in Thailand, where possession of an illegal firearm is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. But ownership is high compared to some other countries in Southeast Asia. Illegal weapons, many imported from riot-torn neighboring countries, are widespread.
Mass shootings in Thailand remain rare, although in 2020 a soldier angry over a property deal gone awry killed at least 29 and wounded 57 in a rampage that spanned four locations.
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Additional reporting by Poppy McPherson and Jiraporn Kuhakan in Na Klang, Orathai Sriring, Panarat Thepgumpanat, Chayut Setboonsarng and Juarwee Kittisilpa in Bangkok; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor, Robert Birsel and Raissa Kasolowsky; Edited by Kim Coghill, Clarence Fernandez, Mark Heinrich and Gareth Jones
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