Thailand Daycare Shooting: A former police officer opened fire at a kindergarten in Thailand, killing at least 35 people, mostly children, before turning the gun on his family and then himself.
The attacker – armed with a shotgun, a pistol and a knife – went on a killing spree in Nong Bua Lamphu province around 12:30 (05:30 GMT) on Thursday before fleeing the scene in a pick-up truck.
At least 23 children were among the dead, police colonel Jakkapat Vijitraithaya said. According to the witness, the shooter forced his way into the locked room where the children were sleeping at the time.
After the attack, the gunman went home and killed his wife and child, Jakkapat said.
The attacker was named as ex-policeman Panya Khamrab, 34, and Jakkapat said he was discharged from the army last year due to drug use.
Nanthicha Punchum, acting head of the nursery, described the harrowing scenes as the attacker stormed the building.
“In front of the nursery, some staff were having lunch and the attacker parked his car and shot four of them,” she said. “The shooter kicked the door in, then went in and started cutting the children’s heads off with a knife.”
The children at the kindergarten in Uthai Sawan, a town 500 km (310 miles) northeast of the capital Bangkok, were mostly stabbed to death, police said.
Footage after the attack showed distraught parents crying in a shelter outside the nursery, a yellow one-storey building in the garden.
“I thought it was fireworks”
About 30 children were at the center when the gunman entered around lunchtime, district official Jidapa Boonsom said.
The man first shot four or five employees, including a teacher who was eight months pregnant, Jidapa said. “At first people thought it was fireworks… It’s really shocking.” We were very scared and ran for cover as soon as we knew it was a shooting. So many children were killed, I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Photos showed at least two bodies on the floor of the center covered in white sheets.
Witness Paweena Purichan, 31, was riding her motorcycle to her shop when she encountered the fleeing assailant, who was driving erratically. “He intended to hit others on the road,” she said.
“The attacker crashed into a motorcycle and two people were injured. I quickly got away from him. There was blood everywhere.”
He killed his wife and child
Police spokesman Paisan Luesomboon told Thai PBS television that the gunman was in court on Thursday in connection with a drug case and went to the kindergarten to find his own child, but the child was not there.
“He was already stressed and when he couldn’t find his child, he became more stressed and started shooting,” Paisan said, adding that he then drove home and killed his wife and child there before taking his own life.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-O-Cha ordered the national police chief to “speed up the investigation” and said he would travel to the site of the attack on Friday.
“This shouldn’t happen. This should definitely not happen,” Praayut told reporters. “I am extremely sorry for those who were hurt and lost [their loved ones].”
Gun laws are strict in Thailand, where possession of an illegal firearm carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years, but ownership is high compared to some other countries in the region.
Mass shootings are rare in Thailand, but in 2020 a soldier angry over a property deal killed at least 29 people and injured 57 in a rampage that spread across four locations.