Gunman kills at least 30 people in attack on Thai nursery

Gunman kills at least 30 people in attack on Thai nursery

Bangkok (AFP) –

Thanaporn PROMYAMYAI, Montira RUNGJIRAJITTRANON

A former police officer stormed into a children’s room in Thailand on Thursday and shot dead at least 30 people, most of them children, before killing himself and his family.

The attacker, armed with a shotgun, pistol and knife, opened fire at the child care center in Nong Bua Lam Phu province at around 12:30 p.m. (05:30 GMT) before fleeing the scene in a pickup truck.

“The death toll from the shooting is at least 30 people,” said Anucha Burapachaisri, a spokesman for the Thai prime minister’s office.

At least 23 children were among the dead, said Police Colonel Jakkapat Vijitraithaya from the province where the attack took place.

After the attack, the gunman went home and killed himself, his wife and child, Jakkapat said.

The gunman was identified as Panya Khamrab, 34, and Jakkapat said he was fired from the force last year for drug use.

Eyewitness Paweena Purichan, 31, was riding her motorcycle to her shop when she encountered fleeing Panya, who was driving erratically.

“He wanted to bump into others on the street,” she told AFP news agency.

“The attacker rammed a motorcycle and injured two people. I drove away to escape him.”

“There was blood everywhere.”

Paweena said the attacker was known in the area as a drug addict.

Thailand is part of the so-called Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia, which has long been a notorious hotspot for drug trafficking and abuse.

Rising shipments of methamphetamine have sent street prices in Thailand to an all-time low, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

– mass shootings rare –

The mass killing comes less than a month after a serving army officer shot dead two colleagues at a military training ground in the capital, Bangkok.

While Thailand has a high gun ownership rate, mass shootings are extremely rare.

But in the past year there have been at least two more cases of shooting homicides by serving soldiers, according to the Bangkok Post.

In 2020, in one of the kingdom’s deadliest incidents in recent years, a soldier shot 29 people and injured dozens more in a 17-hour rampage before being shot dead by commandos.

This mass shooting, linked to a debt dispute between armed sergeant-major Jakrapanth Thomma and a senior officer, sparked public outrage against the military.

The soldier managed to steal assault rifles from an army depot before embarking on his killing spree, posting live updates on social media along the way.

High-ranking military officials strove to portray the killer as a renegade soldier.