The day after the Thai attack, traumatized relatives cling to the toys of the children killed

  • An ex-policeman killed 34 people in a day center with a knife and a gun
  • After the attack he killed his wife and son, turned on himself
  • Police are investigating the motive, believe it may be due to stress
  • Thai flags fly at half mast over buildings to mourn the attack

UTHAI SAWAN, Thailand, Oct 7 (Reuters) – Traumatized parents gathered at a daycare center in Thailand where a former policeman killed 34 people, most of them children, in a rampage with knives and weapons the day before fire. which horrified the nation.

Government buildings lowered flags at half-mast on Friday to mourn the victims – including 23 children – of the carnage in Uthai Sawan, a town 500 km (310 miles) northeast of Bangkok, the country’s largely Buddhist capital.

After leaving the day care center – a pink one-story building surrounded by a lawn and small palm trees – filled with dead, dying and injured, the ex-officer returned home and shot his wife and son dead. before turning his gun on himself. .

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Most of the children, aged two to five, were massacred, while adults were shot, police said in the aftermath of the worst number of child deaths in a massacre by a single killer in recent history.

The aunt of a three-year-old boy who died in the massacre held a stuffed dog and a toy tractor in her lap as she recounted how she rushed to the scene when news first broke .

“I came and saw two bodies in front of the school and immediately knew that my child was already dead,” said Suwimon Sudfanpitak, 40, who looked after his nephew, Techin, while his parents worked in Bangkok.

Also among the dead was Kritsana Sola, a chubby two-year-old girl who loved dinosaurs and football and was nicknamed “captain”. He had just had his hair cut and was showing it off proudly, said his aunt, 27-year-old Naliwan Duangket.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha was due to visit the region on Friday. King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida were also due to meet the families of the victims, according to a local announcement.

Police identified the attacker as Panya Khamrap, 34, a former police sergeant who was fired over drug allegations and was due to stand trial for drug trafficking.

Panya had gone to the nursery to pick up her child after appearing in court earlier in the day, police spokesman Paisal Luesomboon told ThaiPBS TV. When he didn’t find his child there, he started the killing.

“He started shooting, cutting, killing children,” Paisal said.

Chakkraphat Wichitvaidya, a local police official, told Reuters autopsies showed children had been slashed with a large knife, sometimes multiple times, and adults had been shot.

He said police were investigating the motive, though he suspected Panya could have been triggered by stress.

“I don’t know (why he did this) but he was under a lot of pressure,” Panya’s mother told Nation TV, citing the debts her son had accumulated and his drug use.

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“I begged him for mercy”

Photographs taken at the nursery by the rescue team and shared with Reuters showed the tiny bodies of those killed lying on blankets. Abandoned juice boxes were strewn across the floor.

“He was walking towards me and I begged him for mercy, I didn’t know what to do,” a distraught woman told ThaiPBS, fighting back tears.

“He didn’t say anything, he shot at the door while the children were sleeping,” said another woman, distraught.

The attacker forced his way into a locked room where the children were sleeping, Jidapa said. Three boys and a girl who survived the attack were being treated in hospital, police said.

There were around 30 children in the center when the attack began, which was fewer than usual as heavy rains had driven many people away, district official Jidapa Boonsom said.

The massacre is among the worst involving children killed by a single person. Anders Breivik killed 69 people, mostly teenagers, at a summer camp in Norway in 2011, while the death toll in other cases includes 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut in 2012 , 16 at Dunblane, Scotland in 1996 and 19 at a school in Uvalde, Texas this year.

gun laws are strict in Thailand, but gun ownership is high compared to some Southeast Asian countries, and illegal guns are common, many from conflict-torn neighbors in the region.

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Additional reporting by Orathai Sriring, Panarat Thepgumpanat, Chayut Setboonsarng and Juarwee Kittisilpa in Bangkok; Written by Ed Davies; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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