Former policeman attacks Thailand day-care center, killing at least 36, mostly preschoolers
A former police officer facing a drug charge burst into a day-care center in Thailand on Thursday, killing dozens of preschoolers and teachers and then firing on more people as he fled. At least 36 people were slain in the deadliest rampage in the nation’s history.
The attacker, who authorities said was fired from the police force this year, took his own life after killing his wife and child at home.
Photos taken by first responders showed the school’s floor littered with the tiny bodies of children still on their blankets, where they had been taking an afternoon nap. The images showed slashes to their faces and gunshots to their heads and pools of blood.
A teacher told ThaiPBS public 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 2 or 3 years old.”
The attack took place in the rural town of Uthai Sawan in Thailand’s northeastern province of Nongbua Lamphu, one of the country’s poorest regions.
Another witness said staff at the day care had locked the door, but the gunman shot his way in.
For the record:
6:20 a.m. Oct. 6, 2022Earlier versions of this story misspelled Kom Chad Luek television as Kom Chad Leuk and police chief Dumrongsak Kittiprapas as Damrongsak Kittiprapha.
“The teacher who died, she had a child in her arms,” a witness, whose name wasn’t given, told Thailand’s Kom Chad Luek television at the scene. “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, six of them critically, police spokesman Archayon Kraithong said.
A video taken by a first responder arriving at the scene showed rescuers rushing into the single-story building past the shattered glass front door, with drops of blood on the ground in the entryway.
In footage posted online after the attack, frantic family members could be heard weeping outside the day-care center, and one image showed a room with a floor smeared with blood and sleeping mats scattered about. Pictures of the alphabet and other colorful decorations adorned the walls.
A Russian gunman’s pistols last month were marked “Dylan” and “Eric,” the shooters who killed 13 people at Columbine High School in 1999.
Police identified the gunman as 34-year-old former police officer Panya Kamrap. Police Maj. Gen. Paisal Luesomboon told PPTV in an interview that Panya was fired from the force because of drug-related offenses.
In a Facebook posting, Thai police chief Gen. Dumrongsak Kittiprapas said the man, who had been a sergeant, was due in court Friday for a hearing in a case involving methamphetamine, and speculated that he may have chosen the day-care center because it was close to his home.
Earlier, Dumrongsak told reporters that the main weapon used was a 9-millimeter pistol that the man had purchased himself. Paisal said he also had a shotgun and a knife.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who planned to travel to the scene Friday, told reporters that initial reports were that the former officer was having personal problems.
“This shouldn’t happen,” the prime minister said. “I feel deep sadness toward the victims and their relatives.”
Police have not given a full breakdown of the death toll, but they have said at least 22 children and two adults were killed at the day-care center. At least two more children were killed elsewhere.
Firearm-related deaths in Thailand are much lower than in countries such as the U.S. and Brazil, but higher than in countries such as Japan and Singapore, which have strict gun control laws. The rate of firearm-related deaths in 2019 was about 4 per 100,000 in Thailand, compared with about 11 per 100,000 in the U.S. and nearly 23 per 100,000 in Brazil.
As Uvalde parents grieve, they join a growing group of those who lost kids to gun violence — at Aurora and Sandy Hook and Parkland and beyond.
Mass shootings are rare in Thailand, which has one of the highest civilian gun ownership rates in Asia, with 15.1 weapons per 100 people compared with only 0.3 in Singapore and 0.25 in Japan.
That’s still far lower than the U.S. rate of 120.5 per 100 people, according to a 2017 survey by Australian nonprofit organization Gun-Policy.org.
The country’s previous worst mass shooting involved a disgruntled soldier who opened fire in and around a mall in the northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima in 2020, killing 29 people and holding off security forces for some 16 hours before they killed him.
Nearly 60 other people were wounded in that attack. Its death toll surpassed that of the previously worst attack on civilians, a 2015 bombing at a shrine in Bangkok that killed 20 people. It was allegedly carried out by human traffickers in retaliation for a crackdown on their network.
Last month, a clerk allegedly shot co-workers at Thailand’s Army War College in Bangkok, killing two and wounding another before he was arrested.
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