by Daneil Anthony N. Cerdeña || Photo Credit: Arab News
Trigger Warnings for the content of this article: Violence and mentions of suicide
Last October 6, 2022, in Uthai Sawan, Nong Bua Lamphu, Thailand, a local day-care center shifted from being a positive place to instantly becoming a historical area due to a former police officer going on a rampage—resulting in the death of over 30 people, mainly children.
According to Aaron Karp from the Small Arms Survey (2018), Thailand is estimated to approximately have 10 million civilian-held legal and illegal firearms. In the same year, 1,359 people died due to firearms (Alpers, Philip & Picard, 2022). However, mass shootings in Thailand are rare, with the last occurrence taking place in 2020 in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, where a soldier killed 29 people due to rage. However, that has changed due to the daycare attack.
The gunman was Panya Khamrab—a 34-year-old former police officer discharged from service due to his case: alleged possession of drugs.
On October 6, 2022, Khamrab attended a court hearing regarding his case. However, according to the Royal Thai Police, he was supposed to receive his verdict on October 7, 2022.
After the hearing, Khamrab directly went to the local nursery in Nong Bua Lamphu to pick up his son, although when he arrived, his son was nowhere to be found. He then began attacking civilians.
Khamrab shot both the adults and staff in the daycare. In his rampage, he stabbed a group of sleeping children in a room, among other horrible atrocities. The police then stated that he fled the scene with his pick-up, shooting random passers-by while driving back home.
The attacker used a 9mm gun he legally acquired; however, most of the killings were committed by stabbing victims with a knife, the police added.
“We surrounded the house and then found that he committed suicide in his home,” Police Chief Damrongsak Kittiprapat said. He also added that Khamrab killed both his wife and son before killing himself.
His attack is now the newest addition to the various massacres in Thailand’s history, with more than 30 people killed through shooting or stabbing by this former police officer.
However, most of the children from the class were safe, as they were absent due to recent floods, preventing them from coming to the center.
Currently, it is unclear what motivated the attacker. He was, however, apparently under the influence of drugs, police spokesperson Paisal Lusueomboon told the Thai Public Broadcasting System (ThaiPBS) in a phone interview.
Doctor Krisanaphong Poothakool, a local Thai criminologist and faculty member of Rangsit University, was also interviewed by ThaiPBS. He expressed that the Nong Bua Lamphu Massacre would not be the last of its kind and that Thai society should rethink the state of firearm possession in the country. Dr. Poothakool also suggested that a mental health screening should be conducted before an individual is allowed to possess a firearm.
The Thai government has started its commitment to solving this issue. Recently, the King and Queen visited the massacre victims at the local hospitals in Nong Bua Lamphu. In addition, ThaiPBS reported that in order to prevent gun-related violence, the topic of gun control will be brought up at a meeting of the House Committee on Police Affairs.
Global figures all around have also shared their support and grief for the Thai people. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) commented on the tragedy by declaring that “UNICEF condemns all forms of violence against children. No child should be a target or witness of violence anywhere, anytime.”
In a tweet by the Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, he articulated, “It’s impossible to comprehend the heartbreak of this horrific news from Thailand. All Australians send their love and condolences.”
“I am shocked to hear of the horrific events in Thailand this morning. My thoughts are with all those affected and the first responders. The UK stands with the Thai people at this terrible time,” Liz Truss, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Northern Island, also expressed through a tweet.
Chadchart Sittipunt, Bangkok’s Governor, shared his thoughts in a tweet stating “การสูญเสียลูกคือโศกนาฎกรรมที่รุนแรงที่สุดของพ่อแม่ ผมขอแสดงความเสียใจกับครอบครัวผู้สูญเสียและผู้ได้รับบาดเจ็บทุกคน และขอเป็นกำลังใจให้พวกเราทุกคนผ่านพ้นช่วงเวลาที่หดหู่โหดร้ายนี้ไปได้ครับ [The loss of a child is a parent’s greatest tragedy. My condolences to all the bereaved and injured families. And I would like to encourage all of us to get through this gloomy time.].”
This gave the Thai people hope since their government officials acknowledged the issue and would improve the current state to prevent a massacre from happening again.