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Thailand mourns victims of 'heartbreaking' daycare center massacre

DW - South Africa logo DW - South Africa 2022/10/07
The attack in northeastern Thailand is the deadliest mass shooting ever recorded in the country © Provided by DW - South Africa The attack in northeastern Thailand is the deadliest mass shooting ever recorded in the country

A rural community in Thailand was plunged into mourning on Friday after an ex-police officer went on a shooting rampage in the northeastern town of Uthai Sawan.

The attack is the country's deadliest shooting rampage on record, with a total of 36 people killed. Out of those, at least 20 of the victims were children.

Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha are set to visit the town and meet with victims later on Friday.

Condolences have flooded in from the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States and other countries. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the attack as "both senseless and heartbreaking."

Families devastated by violence

Distraught parents and other family members gathered outside the front door of the daycare center on Friday morning.

They laid white roses on the wooden floor of the center, with family members crying and holding one another.

One of the victims, a 2-year-old named Kamram, was described by his loved ones as a sweet and kind child.

"Before he passed away he wished to eat pizza. We were very sad that we didn't buy pizza for him before," the boy's aunt, Naliwan Duangkot, told news agency AFP.

"He was very sweet, very kind, he always shared things with children, with everyone," she said while comforting the boy's mother, 19-year-old Panita Prawanna.

Seksan Sriraj lost his pregnant wife in the attack. She was a teacher at the center and due to give birth to their child later this month.

"I cried until I had no more tears coming out of my eyes. They are running through my heart," the 28-year-old told the Associated Press.

"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. That's about it,'' he added.

Psychologists were sent to the site to help grieving family members and assist them in starting the process to claim compensation.

Royal and government representatives also stood in lines to lay wreaths at the daycare center on Friday morning.

What happened in the attack?

The attack took place on Thursday afternoon in the rural town of Uthai Sawan in the province of Nongbua Lamphu.

The gunman, a 34-year-old fired police officer, began the rampage at the local child care center armed with a pistol and a knife.

According to authorities and eye-witnesses, he first shot a teacher outside the nursery — prompting other teachers to lock the center's glass front door.

The gunman then shot and kicked through the door and walked towards a classroom where children were taking their afternoon naps, attacking the sleeping 2- and 3-year-olds.

He later fled the scene, driving erratically and firing at people on the street. Upon returning home, he killed his wife and child before taking his life, police said.

At least 36 people were killed in the attack — over 20 of whom were children. Another 10 people were wounded, with several still being treated in local hospitals.

Following the shooting, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha ordered an urgent probe into the attack.

Country's worst mass shooting

Mass shootings are rare in Thailand, where there are steep penalties for possessing illegal firearms.

The rate of gun ownership, however, is higher compared to other countries in the region.

The gunman in Thursday's shooting reportedly used a legally-purchased gun.

Thailand's previous worst mass shooting occurred in February 2020. During that incident, a soldier went on a rampage, killing at least 29 people and wounding 57 others.

rs/nm (AP, AFP)

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