A gunman killed 38 people, including himself, in a northeastern Thailand town on Thursday, in what is the Southeast Asian country’s deadliest mass shooting to date.
Here’s what we know so far.
What are the details?
Police said the mass shooting and knifing began at a children’s daycare center, in Na Klang district of Nong Bua Lamphu, some 269 miles away from Bangkok, early in the afternoon.
According to officials, 38 people including the gunman died as a result of the attack, Bloomberg reported. The victims include 24 children, state broadcaster ThaiPBS reports, with some as young as two years old, according to local media. At least 10 others were injured, including six critically, a police spokesman told the Associated Press.
The attacker, a former police officer, was armed with a shotgun, a pistol, and a knife when he forced his way into the center around 12:30 p.m. local time and opened fire. The Associated Press reported earlier that 19 boys, three girls, and two adults were among those killed in the building, according to a police statement. The attacker also shot at least nine other people dead as he fled.
A district official told Reuters that one of the teachers shot was eight months pregnant.
In photos and videos of the scene that were posted online, one room in the daycare center was seen covered in blood and scattered with sleeping mats, the Associated Press reported. The publication added that in the background of videos, family members outside the center could be heard weeping as emergency services gathered on scene.
A witness reportedly told Thailand’s Kom Chad Luek television that the center’s door had been locked when the attacker was seen approaching with a handgun but that he used the weapon to shoot through it.
Police Maj. General Paisal Luesomboon told ThaiPBS that the attacker appeared under the influence of drugs and that he had been discharged last year for alleged drug abuse. Gen. Damrongsak, the national police chief, said at a news conference that the assailant had been at a hearing over the drug charges on Thursday morning and was due to be sentenced on Friday.
How common are mass shootings in Thailand?
Gun violence is a growing problem in Thailand. The country is second to the Philippines for the number of gun homicides in Southeast Asia.
But Thai gun experts say most illicit firearms are used for crimes other than homicide. Mass shootings in Thailand are rare. In February 2020, a 31-year-old soldier in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima killed 29 people and wounded 57 before being shot dead. Most of the victims were at a shopping center.
Among the slain were the shooter’s superior officer, as well as the officer’s mother-in-law, who was accused of cheating the soldier in a lucrative land deal.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha described that massacre as “unprecedented in Thailand.”
On Sept. 14, 2022, a soldier at a base in the Thai capital Bangkok killed two people and wounded one.
Are guns easy to get in Thailand?
An article published just a month ago on the English-language website of Thailand’s public broadcaster warned of the ready availability of firearms.
Entitled “4 million reasons to believe Thailand has a problem with illegal guns,” the article said there were 4 million unregistered weapons in the country and 6 million registered ones.
“Online marketplaces make it cheap and easy for civilians to obtain guns without having to go through complicated background checks,” the article said. “Several Thai social media accounts offer guns for sale with a home delivery service.”
It added that “tough rules can be bypassed with bribes or connections in the bureaucracy.”
How are Thailand and the world reacting?
Following news of the mass shooting, Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha wrote on Facebook: “My deepest condolences to the bereaved and injured families. Let all parties involved help and heal those affected urgently.”
Chan-ocha also ordered government buildings to fly their flags at half mast to honor victims of the attack, and met with their families on Friday, the New York Times reported. The publication added that a rare public visit from the nation’s King, Maha Vajiralongkorn, is expected on Friday evening.
Grieving families were reunited with the bodies of their deceased as coffins were brought into a temple to carry out Buddhist rites ahead of funerals. The Thai government issued a statement confirming that their funerals would be paid for from a state compensation fund.
Meanwhile, world leaders expressed shock and sent their condolences to the people of Thailand following the shooting.
Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese posted on Twitter that it is “impossible to comprehend the heartbreak” of the horrific news. “All Australians send their love and condolences,” he said.
Liz Truss, the British Prime Minister, said that she was “shocked” by the shooting. “My thoughts are with all those affected and the first responders,” she said. “The U.K. stands with the Thai people at this terrible time.”
In a statement, the White House said, “our deepest condolences go out to the families who lost loved ones. We condemn this act of violence and stand ready to assist our long-standing ally Thailand in whatever they need.”
With additional reporting by Armani Syed/London.
This is a developing story.
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