10/07/2022, 15.34
THAILAND
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Under shock, Thais want answers following the Uthai Sawan daycare massacre

by Steve Suwannarat

A police officer kills 37 people, including 23 children. In his message of condolences, Pope Francis expressed his “spiritual closeness to all those affected by this act of unspeakable violence”. Police recruitment practices are coming under closer scrutiny as are abuses of power, drug use, and easy access to weapons.

 

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – In a country in shock, Thai authorities have confirmed the death of 37 people, including 23 children, killed by a former policeman yesterday afternoon in a daycare centre in Uthai Sawan, in the northern province of Nong Bua Lamphu.

The man, who shot himself with the same gun used in his killing spree, also murdered his wife and son. Most victims were either gunned down or stabbed with a knife. At least a dozen were wounded, with five still in intensive care.

In the evening, King Rama X was expected to visit the hospital where the victims are being treated and where he will meet their families.

The Catholic Church of Thailand also reacted to the deadly incident.  “It was a shocking event,” said Bishop Joseph Pratan Sridarunsil, chairman of the Catholic Office of Social Communication speaking to the Licas news agency. No one could have ever “thought it would happen in our country or anywhere in the world,” he added.

Pope Francis expressed his condolences in a telegram sent to the apostolic nunciature in Bangkok by Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

In it, the pontiff offered “his heartfelt condolences and the assurance of his spiritual closeness to all those affected by this act of unspeakable violence against innocent children. In imploring divine healing and consolation upon the injured and the grieving families, His Holiness prays that, in this hour of immense sadness, they may draw support and strength from the solidarity of their neighbours and fellow citizens.”

As the country now enters a period of mourning, Thais are wondering why Panya Khamrab did what he did. A former police officer, he was expelled from the force for violent behaviour and drug addiction.

It appears that he did not act only out of personal motives, that his case raises broader, societal issues, such as police and military recruitment and training.

In the past, civilians have often been the victims of violent acts by police and the military unbecoming of their role.

One of the most recent was the killing of 29 civilians and the wounding of 58 more on 8 and 9 February 2020 in Nakhon Ratchasima by a soldier who had fallen out with his superiors.

Unstable behaviour, alcohol and drug abuse, and poor working conditions are too often underestimated, while power over civilians can encourage overbearing attitudes and abuses.

The other question concerns the availability of weapons, even more so by individuals already reported for being a problem within the security apparatus. Add to that, a culture of taking the law in one’s own hands has developed despite the teachings of Buddhism followed by most Thais.

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