Thailand mourns 24 children, 12 others slain by ex-police officer in shooting rampage

Woman comforting grieving young man
Seksan Sriraj, 28, grieves during a ceremony Friday for his pregnant wife and others killed in a shooting rampage at a day-care center in Thailand.
(Sakchai Lalit / Associated Press)

Relatives wailed and collapsed in grief over the small coffins of children Friday, a day after an armed former police officer stormed a rural Thai day-care center at naptime and massacred dozens of people.

Thailand’s deadliest mass killing left virtually no one untouched in this small community nestled among rice paddies in one of the nation’s poorest regions. Grief also gripped the rest of the country, where flags were lowered to half staff and schoolchildren said prayers to honor the dead.

At least 24 of the 36 people killed in the grisly gun and knife attack were children, mostly preschoolers.


“I cried until I had no more tears coming out of my eyes. They are running through my heart,” said Seksan Sriraj, 28, whose pregnant wife worked at the Young Children’s Development Center in Uthai Sawan and was due to give birth this month.

“My wife and my child have gone to a peaceful place. I am alive and will have to live. If I can’t go on, my wife and my child will be worried about me, and they won’t be reborn in the next life,” he said.

A stream of people, including Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, other government representatives and victims’ relatives, left flowers at the day-care center. By afternoon, bouquets of white roses and carnations lined the wall outside, along with five tiny juice boxes, bags of corn chips and a stuffed animal.

The gunman was identified as a former police officer who killed his wife, son and himself after attacking a day-care center in northeast Thailand.

Oct. 6, 2022

Later, relatives received the bodies at the local Buddhist temple. As the small white coffins were opened, some mourners screamed, while others fainted. Paramedics revived them with smelling salts.

For a time, the grounds outside the temple were crowded with people overcome by grief.

“It was just too much. I can’t accept this,” said Oy Yodkhao, 51.

Her 4-year-old grandson, Tawatchai Sriphu, was killed, and she said she worried for the child’s siblings. The family of rice farmers is close, with three generations living under one roof.


Som-Mai Pitfai collapsed when she saw the body of her 3-year-old niece.

Relatives kneel, mourning those killed in an attack on a Thai day-care center
Relatives mourn during a ceremony for those killed in an attack on a day-care center in northeastern Thailand.
(Sakchai Lalit / Associated Press)

“When I looked, I saw she had been slashed in the face with a knife,” the 58-year-old said, holding back tears.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida were expected to go to the hospitals where seven of the 10 people wounded remain. A vigil was planned in a central park in Bangkok, the nation’s capital.

Police identified the gunman as Panya Kamrap, 34, a former police sergeant fired this year because of a drug charge involving methamphetamine. He had been due to appear in court Friday. An employee told a Thai TV station that Panya’s son had attended the day-care center but hadn’t been there for about a month.

Witnesses said the attacker shot a man and child in front of the building before walking toward the classroom. Teachers at the child-care center locked the glass front door, but the gunman shot and kicked his way through it.

The children, mainly preschoolers, had been taking an afternoon nap, and photos taken by first responders showed their tiny bodies on blankets. In some images, slashes to the victims’ faces and gunshots to their heads could be seen.

Panya took his own life after killing his wife and child at home. National police chief Gen. Damrongsak Kittiprapas told reporters Friday that initial investigations found Panya had argued with his wife early Thursday, and that she had called her mother to come pick her up.

“As of now, the police assume that he became stressed because he was afraid that his wife would leave him. This is the important point, because he still looked normal when he went to the court in the morning,” Damrongsak said, explaining that the former officer may have panicked when he came home from court and found his wife absent.

Panya’s mother told Thai news reporters that there had been tension between him and his wife. She also told digital television 3Plus News that her son owed the equivalent of $7,990 on his car loan and $3,730 in additional personal debt.

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The police chief also said the initial autopsy performed on Panya’s body did not detect dangerous drugs, which would mean that he had not taken any in the preceding 72 hours.

The finding appeared to cast doubt on theories that the attack had been carried out in a methamphetamine-induced rage. A second autopsy is planned.

In an interview with Amarin TV, Satita Boonsom, who worked at the day-care center, said staff locked the door to the building after seeing the assailant shoot a child and his father out front. But the attacker broke the glass door and went on to attack the children and workers with his knife and firearm.

She said she and three other teachers climbed the nursery’s fence to escape and call police and seek help. By the time she returned, the children were dead. She said one child who was covered by a blanket survived the attack, apparently because the assailant assumed he was dead.

She said the center usually has around 70 to 80 children, but there were fewer at the time of the attack because the semester was closed for older children and also because a school bus wasn’t able to run because of the rain.

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Oct. 6, 2022

“They wouldn’t have survived,” she said.

Satita added that the attacker’s son hadn’t been to the day-care center recently because he was sick.

One of the youngest survivors is a 3-year-old boy who was riding a tricycle close to his mother and grandmother when the assailant began slashing them with the knife. The mother died, and the boy and grandmother were being treated at separate hospitals, according to local media.

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

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Support and condolences poured in from around the world. “All Australians send their love and condolences,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese tweeted. U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken called the violence “senseless and heartbreaking.”

Pope Francis offered prayers for all those affected by such “unspeakable violence.”

“I’m profoundly saddened by the heinous shooting at a childcare centre in Thailand,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres tweeted.

Thailand’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 finally killed him.

Nearly 60 others 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.