By Orathai Sriring and Panarat Thepgumpanat
BANGKOK (Reuters) – A former policeman killed 37 people, including 22 children, in a knife-and-gun case at a childcare center in Thailand on Thursday, then fatally shot his wife and child. at their home before killing himself, police said. .
In one of the world’s worst child murders in a massacre by a single killer in recent history, most children died in Uthai Sawan, a town 500 kilometers (310 miles) from Bangkok. northeast, were all stabbed to death, police said.
A local official told Reuters that the age of children at the nursery is between two and five years old.
They identified the attacker as a former member of the force who was sacked last year on drug charges and he is facing trial on drug charges.
The man had appeared in court earlier the same day and then went to the daycare center to pick up his child, police spokesman Paisal Luesomboon told ThaiPBS television.
Paisal said when he couldn’t find his son there, he started the killing. “He started shooting, slashing, killing children at the Utai Sawan kindergarten,” Paisal said.
Videos posted on social media showed sheets covering what appeared to be the bodies of children lying in pools of blood in the nursery’s garden.
Reuters could not immediately verify the footage.
About 30 children were at the facility when the attacker arrived, less than usual, as heavy rain kept many people away, said district official Jidapa Boonsom, who was working at a nearby office at the time. .
“The shooter arrived around lunchtime and shot four or five officials at the childcare centre,” Jidapa told Reuters.
At first people thought the shots were fireworks, she said: “It was really shocking. We were so scared and ran away when we heard it was shooting. So many children had been killed, I’ve never been there. Now see something like that.”
Jidapa said the attacker entered a locked room where the children were sleeping. She said she thought he killed children there with a knife, adding that a teacher who was eight months pregnant was also stabbed to death.
The massacre was one of the worst that involved children being killed by one person. In Norway, Anders Brevik killed 69 people, most of them teenagers, at a summer camp in 2011, while child deaths in other cases included 16 at Dunblane in Scotland in 1996 and 19 people at a school in Uvalde, Texas, this year.
The 2004 Beslan school hostage crisis in Russia saw 186 children killed by a group of hostages.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha, in a statement on Facebook (NASDAQ:), called Thursday’s shooting a “shocking incident”.
“I have ordered the sheriff to go to the scene immediately to take the necessary actions and all concerned to provide immediate relief to all those affected,” he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan on Thursday traveled to Uthai Sawan to meet the families of the victims on Thursday, his office said, while the prime minister is expected to visit on Friday.
The government said it would provide financial support to the victim’s family to cover funeral costs and medical treatment.
In the afternoon, officials stood guard at the front entrance of the daycare centre, a pink one-story building surrounded by a lawn and small palm trees.
In a nearby gazebo, people with anxious expressions gathered, most in silence, waiting for news. A woman crying can be heard.
“He (the assailant) was stressed and when he couldn’t find his child, he became even more stressed and started shooting,” police spokesman Paisal told ThaiPBS television. private life.
Gun laws are very strict in Thailand, where illegal possession of a gun carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years. But the ownership rate is high compared to some other countries in Southeast Asia. Illegal weapons, brought in from neighboring countries in conflict, are common.
However, police said the gun used in the shooting was legally purchased.
Mass shootings in Thailand are still rare, though in 2020 a soldier angered by a property deal killed at least 29 and wounded 57 in a pull-off attack. four locations long.