BANGKOK (Reuters): Thirty-four people were killed in Thailand on Thursday (Oct 6) in a gun and knife attack at a day-care centre by a former policeman who killed his wife and child before shooting himself dead.
There were 22 children - some as young as two years old - who were among the victims of the 34-year-old man, who was discharged from the service in 2021 for drug-related reasons.
District police official Chakkraphat Wichitvaidya said witnesses saw the suspect also wielding a knife.
About 30 children were at the centre – fewer than usual because of heavy rains earlier in the day – when the attacker came in at around lunchtime, district official Jidapa Boonsom, who was working at a nearby office at the time, told Reuters.
“The shooter came in around lunch time and shot four or five officials at the childcare centre first,” said Jidapa, adding that among them was a teacher who was eight months pregnant.
“At first people, thought it was fireworks,” she said.
The gunman then forced his way into a locked room where children were sleeping, Jidapa said, to kill the children there with a knife.
Videos posted on social media showed sheets covering what appeared to be the bodies of children lying in pools of blood at the centre in the town of Uthai Sawan in the north-eastern province of Nong Bua Lamphu.
Reuters could not immediately authenticate the footage.
At least 12 people were injured in addition to the 34 casualties, police said.
Police Colonel Jakkapat Vijitraithaya, from Nong Bua Lam Phu,said the gunman then went home and killed his wife and child after the mass shooting.
Earlier, police said a manhunt was under way for the shooter, and a government spokesman said the prime minister alerted all agencies to catch the culprit.
The rate of gun ownership in Thailand is high compared with that in some other countries in the region, but official figures do not include huge numbers of illegal weapons, many of which have been brought in across porous borders over the years from strife-torn neighbours.
Mass shootings are rare but in 2020, a soldier angry over a property deal gone sour killed at least 29 people and wounded 57 in a rampage that spanned four locations.