A disgraced former police officer in northeastern Thailand killed at least 36 people, most of them children, in a shooting and slashing rampage Thursday that started at a day care center and ended at his own home where he killed his family and himself, authorities said.
National police chief Gen. Dumrongsak Kittiprapas said the attacks began at about 12:30 p.m. local time in Nong Bua Lamphu province, about 330 miles northeast of Bangkok. At least 19 boys, three girls and two adults were killed at the day care center before the suspected gunman, identified as former police Officer Panya Khamrab, drove off shooting randomly at people on 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 the poorest parts of Thailand, according to police spokesman Archayon Kraithong.
A witness told Thailand’s Kom Chad Leuk television they had locked the door to the building when they saw the suspect approaching with a handgun, but that he shot through it.
“The teacher who died, she had a child in her arms,” said the woman, whose name wasn’t given. “I didn’t think he would kill children, but he shot at the door and shot right through it.”
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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 expelled from the police force in June and that he faced charges related to possession of methamphetamine pills.
Deputy national police chief Gen. Torsak Sukwimol told the Post the mother of the gunman told him her son had gone to court to attend a hearing on his drug case Thursday morning. After leaving the court, he appeared stressed out, took some drugs and started to feel paranoid, Torsak quoted the mother as saying.
Panya then went to the day care center, where he appeared to become agitated when he could not find his child. He opened fire on staffers having 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 scattered in a preschool room, its floor smeared with blood, with alphabet pictures and other colorful wall decorations.
Videos carried the sound of wails as frantic family members wept and watched outside the nursery school building. Ambulances stood by as police and medical workers walked in the schoolyard.
Mass murders rare in Thailand
Mass shootings are rare in Thailand, although in 2020 a soldier opened fire at a shopping mall and other locations in the southern Thai city of Nakhon Ratchasima, killing 29 people and wounding 58 others.
Firearm-related deaths in Thailand are much lower than in countries like the United States and Brazil, but higher than in countries like Japan and Singapore that have strict gun control laws. The rate of firearm-related deaths in 2019 was about 4 per 100,000, compared with about 11 per 100,000 in the U.S. and nearly 23 per 100,000 in Brazil.
Contributing: The Associated Press