Bangkok — At least 24 children and 11 adults were killed Thursday in an attack that began at a childcare center in northeast Thailand, authorities said. The gunman then fled the scene, shooting from his car as he drove home, where he killed his wife and child before taking his own life, police said.
The initial attack came at about 12:30 p.m. when the man, identified as a former police officer, entered the childcare center in the town of Nongbua Lamphu, authorities said.
Nineteen boys, three girls and two adults were killed in the building before the assailant fled, according to a police statement.
The Reuters news agency quoted Chakkraphat Wichitvaidya, superintendent of Na Klang police station, as telling Thai Rath TV that the attacker was a former police officer who was discharged from the force just last year. Reuters quoted officials as saying the gunman had appeared in court earlier Thursday on drug charges.
He said there were children as young as two among the victims.
Photos and videos of the scene posted online showed sleeping mats scattered in a preschool room, its floor smeared with blood, with alphabet pictures and other colorful wall decorations. Videos carried the sound of wails as frantic family members wept and watched outside the nursery school building. Ambulances stood by as police and medical workers walked in the schoolyard.
According to Thai media reports, the gunman also used knives in the attack.
After the suspect fled, he continued to shoot from his car, hitting several people, police Maj. Gen. Paisal Luesomboon told The Associated Press.
After arriving home, he killed his wife and child before killing himself, according to the Daily News newspaper.
Police said a total of two children and 10 adults died outside the childcare center, including the suspect, his wife and his son.
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha ordered a "fast-track" investigation after the massacre, according to a message posted to his official Facebook page in which the leader also expressed his "deepest sorrow and condolences to the families of the dead and injured."
Firearm-related deaths in Thailand are much lower than in countries like the United States and Brazil, but higher than in countries like Japan and Singapore that have strict gun control laws. The rate of firearms related deaths in 2019 was about 4 per 100,000, compared with about 11 per 100,000 in the U.S. and nearly 23 per 100,000 in Brazil.
Last month, a clerk shot co-workers at Thailand's Army War College in Bangkok, killing two and wounding another before he was arrested.
The country's previous worst mass shooting involved a disgruntled soldier who opened fire in and around a mall in the northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima in 2020, killing 29 people and holding off security forces for some 16 hours before eventually being killed by them.
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