More than 20 preschool-age children are among dozens killed in a mass shooting and knife attack in a child care center in northeastern Thailand on Thursday.
Around 1 p.m., the attacker killed at least 37 people during an assault that began at the Child Development Center Uthaisawan, before killing his wife and 4-year-old son and then shooting himself, Reuters reported.
The assailant was identified as 34-year-old ex-policeman Panya Kamrab. The Royal Thai Police said he was fired in June after he was arrested for drug possession, according to The New York Times. CNN said he had been charged with selling narcotics.
Witnesses said his victims included children as young as 2 and a pregnant teacher. All of the children were under 6.
Ten others were wounded, some critically, according to The Washington Post. The article noted that the day care center is located in the province of long Nua Lamphu, which it called a “largely agricultural region that has one of the highest poverty rates in Thailand.
“Soon after reports of the shooting in the Na Klang district first emerged, appeals for blood donations were posted on social media. People rushed to the nearby Nong Bua Lamphu district hospital, the Nation newspaper reported, and the hospital later said it had received enough blood to treat the wounded,” according to the Post.
No motive has been offered for the assault. But Reuters reported the assailant had been in court earlier in the day, then went to the center to collect his child, who was not there, according to police spokesperson Paisal Luesomboon on ThaiPBS. That’s when he started killing people.
Reuters said fewer children were in day care that day because of heavy rain.
According to BBC, “Eyewitnesses were quoted saying the attacker had driven into bystanders and opened fire at some of them, injuring several people as he made his escape.”
Officials have said it’s Thailand’s deadliest mass shooting by a lone attacker, the Times reported.
“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 with some other countries in Southeast Asia. Illegal weapons, many brought in from strife-torn neighboring countries, are common,” Reuters reported.
According to CNN, “Thailand ranks as the Southeast Asian country with the second-highest gun homicides after the Philippines, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington’s 2019 Global Burden of Disease database.”
Mass shootings, though, are rare, CNN said. In 2020, however, a soldier killed 29 people and wounded more than 50 in a mass shooting that “began at a military site and then sent shoppers hunting for cover after the gunman entered a mall.”