Thai king tells families of massacre victims ‘I share your grief’

Thai king tells families of massacre victims ‘I share your grief’


Thailand’s king has told bereaved families that he “shares their sorrow” in a rare public address following a massacre at a kindergarten that killed dozens.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn met survivors and relatives at a hospital in northeastern Nong Bua Lam Phu province late Friday, a day after an ex-police officer killed 24 children and 12 adults in a three-hour shooting spree with guns and knives in a sleepy rural area.

Buddhist funeral rites and prayers for the dead were set to begin later on Saturday, beginning three days of mourning for the victims of one of the country’s worst mass killings.

As the king offered his help and condolences, grieving families knelt on the hospital floor – as is customary in Thailand, in the presence of the monarch, who is seen as semi-divine.

“I come here to support you. I am very sad about what happened. I share your grief, your grief,” he said in video footage posted online Saturday.

“There are no words that can express the sadness. I support you all and wish you strength so that the children can be reassured.”

The king, with Queen Suthida at his side, said he would pray for the dead.

“We have to do our best, the best we can,” he said.

– flowers, mourning –

The royal visit came after a day of mourning at the small, yellow-walled nursery on the outskirts of a village in Na Klang district, some 500 km (300 miles) north of Bangkok.

One by one, heartbroken parents laid white roses on the steps of the kindergarten where the lives of their young children were brutally ended by fired police sergeant Panya Khamrab on Thursday afternoon.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha joined the mourners on Friday, laying flowers and presenting compensation checks to bereaved families.

Some, struggling to come to terms with the atrocities, wept inconsolably, clutching their children’s favorite toys or blankets – and in one case, a half-full milk bottle.

Among the dead is pregnant teacher Supaporn Pramongmuk, whose husband posted a poignant tribute on Facebook.

“I want to say thank you for all the support for me and my family. My wife did her every duty as a teacher,” Seksan Srirach wrote.

“Please be a teacher in heaven, and my child, please take care of your mother in heaven.”

The attacker entered the daycare center around 12:30 p.m. (0530 GMT) on Thursday to begin his murderous killing spree, opening fire with his own legal 9mm handgun and striking with a knife.

Afterward, the 34-year-old went home to murder his wife and son before taking his own life, police said, ending the rampage around 3pm.

In all, he killed 24 children – 21 boys and three girls – and 12 adults. Most died from a combination of stabbings and gunshots, according to police investigators.

Prime Minister Prayut has ordered a speedy investigation into the massacre and it has emerged that Panya was fired from police on drug abuse charges.

Several people in the close-knit community have told AFP he is known in the area as a methamphetamine addict.

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