A disgraced former police officer in northeast Thailand killed at least 36 people, most of them children, in a shooting and rampage on Thursday that started at a daycare center and ended at his home where he killed himself and his family, authorities said.
National police chief General Dumrongsak Kittiprapas said the attacks began around 12:30 p.m. local time in Nong Bua Lamphu province, about 530 km northeast of Bangkok. At least 19 boys, three girls and two adults were killed at the daycare center before the suspected gunman, identified as former policeman Panya Khamrab, went off shooting randomly at people in the street, police said.
The suspect drove home and killed his wife and son before killing himself, police said. At least 37 people died, including the killer, in the attack in one of Thailand’s poorest regions, according to police spokesman Archayon Kraithong.
A witness told Thai television Kom Chad Leuk that they had locked the door to the building when they saw the suspect approaching with a handgun, but he fired through it.
“The teacher who died, she had a child in her arms,” said the woman, whose name was not specified. “I didn’t think he would kill children, but he shot at the door and shot through.”
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Sukwimol told the Bangkok Post that Panya, 34, was apparently under the influence of drugs at the time of the attack. The Post reported that Panya was kicked out of the police force in June and faces charges related to possession of methamphetamine pills.
Deputy National Police Chief General Torsak Sukwimol told the Post that the shooter’s mother told him her son had gone to court to attend a hearing on his drug case Thursday morning. After leaving court, he appeared stressed, took drugs and began to feel paranoid, Torsak said citing the mother.
Panya then went to daycare, where he seemed to get restless when he couldn’t find his child. He opened fire on staff eating lunch outside, Torsak said. Panya then went inside. Most of the children were sleeping and many of them were killed with a knife, Torsak said.
Photos and videos of the scene posted online showed sleeping mats strewn across a kindergarten room, its floor stained with blood, along with pictures of the alphabet and other colorful wall decorations.
Videos played the sound of moans as frantic family members cried and stared outside the preschool building. Ambulances stood there as police and medical personnel marched through the schoolyard.
Rare mass murders in Thailand
Mass shootings are rare in Thailand, although in 2020 a soldier opened fire at a shopping mall and other places in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima in southern Thailand, killing 29 people and injuring 58 others.
Gun-related deaths in Thailand are much lower than countries like the United States and Brazil, but higher than countries like Japan and Singapore that have strict gun control laws . The rate of gun-related deaths in 2019 was around 4 per 100,000, compared to around 11 per 100,000 in the United States and nearly 23 per 100,000 in Brazil.
Contribute: The Associated Press