Saturday, April 01, 2023|
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UTHAI SAWAN, Thailand — A former police officer facing a drug charge burst into a day care center Thursday in Thailand, killing dozens of preschoolers and teachers and then shooting more people as he fled. At least 36 people were slain in the deadliest rampage in the nation’s history.
The assailant, who was fired earlier 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 public broadcaster Thai PBS 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 gunman 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 spokesman Archayon Kraithong said.
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.
A video taken by a first responder arriving at the scene showed rescuers rushing into the single-story building past a shattered glass front door, with drops of blood visible on the ground in the entryway.
In footage posted online after the attack, frantic family members could be heard weeping outside the building. One image showed the floor smeared with blood where sleeping mats were scattered around the room. Pictures of the alphabet and other colorful decorations adorned the walls.
Police identified the attacker as 34-year-old former police officer Panya Kamrap. Police Maj. Gen. Paisal Luesomboon told PPTV in an interview that he was fired from the force earlier this year because of the drug charge.
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 the 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 9mm pistol that the man had purchased himself. Paisal said he also had a shotgun and a knife.
Thailand Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who planned to travel to the scene on Friday, told reporters that initial reports were that the former officer was having personal problems.
“This shouldn’t happen,” he 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. At least two more children were killed elsewhere.
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