Tuesday, November 29

Thailand in mourning after children killed in mass stabbing and shooting | Thailand

Thailand was in mourning on Friday after 37 people were killed, most of them young children, in a brutal gun and knife attack at a preschool center in the country’s northeast.

The attacker, a former police officer, opened fire and stabbed children as they slept at the center in Na Klang district in Nong Bua Lamphu province at about noon on Thursday, police and witnesses said.

Police said the perpetrator was a former police officer. Photograph: THAILAND’S CENTRAL INVESTIGATION/AFP/Getty Images

As he left the nursery the attacker drove his car towards and shot at bystanders then returned home, where he shot himself, his wife and his child.

The Thai government ordered all Thai flags to be lowered to half mast on Friday, while prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha was expected to visit the area in the morning.

“This shouldn’t happen,” he said on Thursday. “I feel deep sadness toward the victims and their relatives.”

On Thursday night, pink and white coffins adorned with gold and bearing the bodies of the 22 children were driven away in the darkness.

Rescue workers arrange coffins containing the body of victims.
Rescue workers arrange coffins containing the body of victims. Photograph: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

“All Thai people, and all people around the world who know about this… will feel so depressed and saddened,” said Thailand’s deputy prime minister, Anutin Charnvirakul.

Some family members of those killed in the attack were still at the scene of the rampage late into the evening. Mental health workers sat with them, reported Thai TBS television.

A teacher told the broadcaster that the assailant got out of a car and immediately shot a man eating lunch outside, then fired more shots. When the attacker paused to reload, the teacher had an opportunity to run inside.

“I ran to the back, the children were asleep,” said the young woman, who did not give her name, choking back her words. “The children were two or three years old.”

Another witness said staff at the day care center had locked the door, but the suspect shot his way in.

“The teacher who died, she had a child in her arms,” the witness, whose name wasn’t given, told Thailand’s Kom Chad Luek television. “I didn’t think he would kill children, but he shot at the door and shot right through it.”

At least 10 people were wounded, including six critically, police spokesperson Archayon Kraithong said.

A day care center sits empty a day after it was attacked by a lone assailant in the town of Nongbua Lamphu, north eastern Thailand, early Friday.
The day care center sits empty a day after it was attacked. Photograph: Sakchai Lalit/AP

Mass shootings are rare in Thailand, however gun ownership rates are high. The attack comes two years after a mass shooting at a shopping mall in Nakhon Ratchasima, which was carried out by an angry soldier at his superiors.

In an editorial on Friday, the Bangkok Post said: “Both cases beg questions about the recruitment process employed by the army and the Royal Thai Police (RTP).”

“Above all, people will want to know how the RTP hired this man, who reportedly admitted to his superior that he had been taking narcotics since he was a teenager. Moreover, he had been punished for bad behavior on several occasions.”

Police identified the attacker as Panya Khamrab, a 34-year-old former police lieutenant colonel who had been dismissed from the force since January for methamphetamine possession, and officially fired in June. He had appeared in court earlier on Thursday on a drug charge and was due to appear again on Friday.

Officials said the results of an autopsy would determine whether or not he had taken drugs prior to the attack. “Primarily, we believe that it’s because of the drugs and the stress [of his court appearance]”, said Police chief Damrongsak Kittiprapat.

Politicians across the world have offered their condolences, including British Prime Minister Liz Truss and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: “I’m profoundly saddened by the heinous shooting at a childcare center in Thailand. Learning centers should be spaces where children feel safe, never targeted. My condolences to the victims’ loved ones & the people of Thailand.”


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