A former police officer charged with drug trafficking broke into a daycare center in northeast Thailand on Thursday, killing dozens of preschoolers and teachers before shooting others as he walked fled in the deadliest rampage in the country’s history.
The attacker, who was fired earlier this year, took his own life after killing his wife and child at home.
A witness said daycare staff locked the door when they saw the attacker approaching with a gun, but he fought his way out. At least 37 people were killed in the attack in one of Thailand’s poorest regions, according to police spokesman Archayon. Kraithong.
Suspect Panya Kamrap. (Nong Bua Lamphu Provincial Public Relations Office via AP)
“The teacher who died, she had a child in her arms,” the witness, whose name was not given, told Thai television Kom Chad Luek. “I didn’t think he would kill children, but he shot at the door and shot through.”
Video taken by a first responder arriving at the scene of the two-storey childcare center in the rural town of Nongbua Lamphu showed rescuers rushing into the building past the shattered glass front door, with drops of blood visible on floor.
In footage posted online after the attack, frantic family members could be heard crying outside the building, and one image showed the floor of a blood-stained room where sleeping mats were strewn. Pictures of the alphabet and other colorful decorations adorned the walls.
Police identified the suspect as 34-year-old former police officer Panya Kamrap. Major General of Police Paisal Luesomboon told PPTV in an interview that he was fired from the force earlier this year due to the drug charge.
In a Facebook post, Thai police chief General Dumrongsak Kittiprapas said the man, who had been a sergeant, was due in court on Friday for a hearing in the methamphetamine possession case, and issued the assumption that he might have chosen daycare because it was close. at his home.
Earlier, Dumrongsak told reporters that the main weapon used was a 9mm pistol which the man bought himself. Paisal said he also had a shotgun and a knife.
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who plans to visit the scene on Friday, told reporters that initial reports indicated the former officer had personal issues.
“That shouldn’t happen,” he said. “I feel deep sadness towards the victims and their loved ones.”
Police did not give a full breakdown of the death toll, but said at least 22 children and two adults were killed at the daycare. At least two other children were killed elsewhere. They said 12 people were injured.
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.
Mass shootings are rare but not unheard of in Thailand, which has one of the highest civilian gun ownership rates in Asia, with 15.1 guns per 100 people, compared to just 0.3 in Singapore and 0.25 in Japan. That’s still far below the US rate of 120.5 per 100 people, according to a 2017 survey by Australian nonprofit GunPolicy.org.
The country’s worst mass shooting involved a disgruntled soldier who opened fire in and around a shopping mall in the northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima in 2020, killing 29 and holding back forces security for about 16 hours before finally being killed by them.
Last month, a clerk fired on colleagues at the Thai Army War College in Bangkok, killing two and injuring another before being arrested.
By TASSANEE VEJPONGSA Associated Press. AP writers David Rising, Chalida Ekvitthayavechnukul, Elaine Kurtenbach and Grant Peck contributed to this story.