Thais mourn dozens, mostly children, killed in daycare center attack | PA News
Uthai Sawan, Thailand (AP) — Relatives wept and collapsed in grief at the small coffins of children on Friday after a fired policeman stormed a rural Thai day care center at nap time and massacred 36 people.
At least 24 of the dead were children, mostly preschoolers. The grisly gun and knife attack the day before was the deadliest massacre in Thai history, leaving virtually no families untouched in Uthai Sawan, a small rural community nestled among rice paddies and Palm trees.
“I cried until I had no more tears coming from my eyes,” said Seksan Sriraj, 28, whose wife was a teacher at the Early Childhood Development Center and was due to give birth this month. this.
Across the country, flags were lowered and schoolchildren said prayers to honor the dead, while at the site of the attack, some 85 miles (137 kilometers) from Laos, a stream of people, including Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, flowers at left. The wall outside the small, one-story nursery was lined with bouquets of white roses and carnations, along with juice boxes, bags of corn chips and a stuffed animal.
Relatives gathered on the grounds of a nearby Buddhist temple to receive the dead after their autopsies. Some screamed as the small white coffins were opened. Others passed out and were revived with smelling salts.
“It was too much. I cannot accept this,” said Oy Yodkhao, 51, a rice farmer whose 4-year-old grandson Tawatchai Sriphu was among the dead.
Som-Mai Pitfai collapsed at the sight of the body of her 3-year-old niece.
“When I looked I saw she had been slashed across the face with a knife,” the 58-year-old said, fighting back tears after being resuscitated by paramedics.
Elsewhere, King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida visited two hospitals where some of the 10 injured people were being treated.
Police identified the attacker as Panya Kamrap, 34, a former police sergeant who was fired earlier this year on a drug charge involving methamphetamine. He was due to appear in court on Friday.
Authorities believe Panya may have been sparked by an argument with his wife. He committed suicide, police said, after killing his wife and son at home.
“As of now, police assume he became stressed because he was afraid his wife would leave him,” National Police Chief General Dumrongsak Kittiprapas said.
In interviews with Thai media, Panya’s mother said there was tension between her son and his wife, and speaking with 3Plus News she said he was stressed by debt.
An initial autopsy of Panya found no dangerous drugs, police said. A second autopsy was scheduled.
The children at the daycare center were taking an afternoon nap at the time of the attack, and photos taken by first responders showed their tiny bodies still lying on blankets. In some footage, you could see gashes in the victims’ faces and gunshots to their heads. A worker at the center told a Thai TV station that Panya’s son had attended daycare but hadn’t been there for about a month.
In an interview with Amarin TV, Satita Boonsom, a worker at the center, said staff locked the building’s glass front door after seeing the attacker shoot a child and his father in front. But the shooter fired and fought his way through.
Satita said she and three other teachers climbed the center’s fence to escape, call the police and ask for help. By the time she returned, the children were dead. She said a child who was covered in a blanket survived the attack, apparently because the attacker assumed he was dead.
The center usually has 70 to 80 children, she said, but there were fewer at the time of the attack as the semester was over for older children and monsoon rains prevented a school bus from function.
“They wouldn’t have survived,” she said.
One of the youngest survivors was a 3-year-old boy who was riding a tricycle near his mother and grandmother when the attacker started hitting them with the knife. The mother died from her injuries and the boy and grandmother were being treated in hospitals, according to local media.
Mass shootings are rare but not unheard of in Thailand, which has one of the highest civilian gun ownership rates in Asia. The rate is 60 times higher than in Japan, although it is only a fraction of the rate in the United States, according to a 2017 survey by Australian non-profit organization GunPolicy.org.
Thailand’s previous worst massacre involved 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 injuring nearly 60 others.
In 2015, a bomb attack on a shrine in Bangkok killed 20 people.
Associated Press writers Chalida Ekvitthayavechnukul, Elaine Kurtenbach and Grant Peck in Bangkok and Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea contributed to this report.
See more AP Asia-Pacific coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/asia-pacific