Thais Mourn 36 Killed in Horrific Attack on Day Care Center

'I cried until I had no more tears coming out of my eyes'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 7, 2022 12:20 PM CDT
Thailand Mourns Dozens Killed in Day Care Attack
A day care center sits empty a day after it was attacked by a lone assailant in the rural town of Uthai Sawan, north eastern Thailand, early Friday, Oct. 7, 2022.   (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Relatives wailed and collapsed in grief over the small coffins of children Friday after a fired police officer stormed a rural Thai day care center Thursday at naptime and massacred dozens of people. Thailand's deadliest mass killing left virtually no one untouched in the small community 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 Thursday’s grisly gun and knife attack were children, mostly preschoolers, the AP reports. "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 was due to give birth this month and who worked at the Young Children’s Development Center in Uthai Sawan.

"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, left flowers at the day care center on Friday. Later, relatives received the bodies at the local Buddhist temple. Some screamed and others fainted as the coffins were opened. Som-Mai Pitfai collapsed when she saw the body of her 3-year-old niece. "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 later in the day to go to 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 attacker as Panya Kamrap, 34, a former police sergeant fired earlier 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 but hadn't been there for about a month. Panya took his own life after killing his wife and child at home. In an interview with Amarin TV, Satita Boonsom, who worked at the day care center, said staff locked the glass front door to the building after seeing the assailant shoot a child and his father out front. But the gunman shot and kicked his way through it. Satita said she and three other teachers climbed the center's fence to escape and call police and seek help. By the time she returned, the children were dead.

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She said one child who was covered by a blanket survived the attack, apparently because the assailant assumed he was dead. The children, mainly preschoolers, had been taking an afternoon nap, and photos taken by first responders showed their tiny bodies still lying on blankets. In some images, slashes to the victims’ faces and gunshots to their heads could be seen. Satita said the center usually has around 70 to 80 children, but there were fewer at the time of the attack because the semester had ended for older children and rain prevented a school bus from operating. "They wouldn’t have survived," she said. (Read more Thailand stories.)

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