Thirty-seven people, mostly children, have been killed in a knife and gun attack at a preschool center in Northeast Thailand.
According to police reports, a former police officer opened fire at a childcare center in Na Klang district in Nong Bua Lamphu province around noon on Thursday.
Police revealed that most children, who were sleeping when the man attacked, were stabbed to death. Then, as the perpetrator was driving his car out of the nursery, he shot at bystanders.
The man then returned home, where he shot his wife and son before committing suicide.
Police reports revealed that at least 22 children had been killed during the attack, including two-year-olds. The massacre in the city of Uthai Sawan also left at least a dozen people injured. All were taken to Nong Bua Lamphu District Hospital.
The attacker was identified as Panya Khamrab, a 34-year-old former lieutenant colonel who had been fired from the police in 2021 for drug possession and use. He had appeared in court on related charges before the incident.
The motive for the attack is still unclear. The preschool center’s headteacher Nanticha Panchum said the man’s son attended the center but had not been brought there for a month.
Ms. Nanticha also said that the attacker used to drop his son off at daycare and seemed to be a polite and talkative man.
While there were usually more than 90 children at the school, just over 20 had attended on Thursday due to a school bus breakdown and heavy rain, the principal confirmed.
Police officer Jidapa Boonsom said the shooter had entered the preschool around lunchtime and shot four or five staff members, including a teacher who was eight months pregnant.
The man then forced his way into a locked room where the children were sleeping. “At first, people thought it was fireworks,” the officer added.
Witnesses said the attacker was agitated when he arrived at the nursery. A teacher who spoke to the media said she had begged the man to stop after seeing him open fire in the parking lot before walking towards the center.
Police officers responded quickly to the emergency call and found horrific scenes upon arrival. Bodies of adults and children were lying inside and outside the building.
Heartbreaking videos shared on social media show parents and relatives distraught and crying as they gathered at a shelter set up by authorities outside the center.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha posted a statement on his Facebook account offering his deepest condolences to the victims’ families, describing the attack as a “shocking event.”
General Prayut, who ordered all related agencies to help those affected urgently, is expected to visit Nong Bua Lamphu today.
The local police chief said: “Primarily, we believe that it’s because of the drugs and the stress (of his court appearance).” However, he added that an autopsy would determine whether or not the man had used drugs before the brutal attack.