A gunman shot and killed at least 36 people at a childcare center in Thailand, Thursday. Children and teachers were among the victims. Thai officials say the mass shooting is the deadliest incident in the country’s history.
The shooter, a former police officer, had been dismissed from the service earlier this year and was facing an illegal drug charge. He killed himself after killing his wife and child at home.
Photos taken by emergency workers showed the school’s floor was filled with bodies of children still under blankets from their afternoon rest. The images showed cuts to their faces and gunshots to their heads on the bloody floor.
The attack took place in the rural town of Nongbua Lamphu in northeastern Thailand. A teacher told ThaiPBS public broadcaster that the attacker got out of a car and immediately shot a man and fired at several more. When the attacker stopped shooting to reload, the teacher said she had a chance to run inside.
“I ran to the back, the children were asleep,” said the teacher who did not give her name. “The children were two or three years old,” she said.
Another witness said workers at the childcare center had locked the door, but the man shot his way in.
“The teacher who died, she had a child in her arms,” the witness told Thailand’s Kom Chad Luek television. “I didn’t think he would kill children, but he shot at the door and shot right through it.”
A video taken at the scene showed rescuers running into the building past a broken glass door, with drops of blood on the ground in the entryway.
Police identified the gunman as 34-year-old former police officer Panya Kamrap. The man used a handgun and knife in the attack and also carried another gun. An officer told PPTV that he was fired from the force earlier this year because of a drug charge.
Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who planned to travel to the center on Friday, told reporters “This shouldn’t happen.” He added, “I feel deep sadness toward the victims and their relatives.”
Mass shootings are rare but not unheard of in Thailand. The country has one of the highest civilian gun ownership rates in Asia. With 15.1 weapons per 100 people, the rate in Thailand is still far lower than the rate of 120.5 per 100 people in the United States. The numbers come from a 2017 study by Australia’s GunPolicy.org, a nonprofit group.
Thailand’s worst mass shooting before Thursday happened in the northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima in 2020. In that attack, a soldier killed 29 people and wounded nearly 60 others. And a bombing at a religious center in Bangkok resulted in 20 dead in 2015.
I’m Caty Weaver.
The Associated Press reported this story. Hai Do adapted the story for Learning English.
Words in This Story
blanket - n. a covering that is used to keep you warm
lock - v. to keep something in one position to keep it from opening