Grieving families pray at Thai temple for slain victims

Grieving families gathered Sunday at a Buddhist temple to pray and make offerings to the spirits of their deceased toddlers who were killed amid a rampage by a former police officer who shot and slashed them with knives at their day care in northeastern Thailand last week.

The mourning family members gathered at Rat Samakee temple, one of three temples where the bodies of the 36 victims — 24 of them children and most of them preschoolers — will be placed for funeral rites and cremation on Tuesday.

Relatives sat in front of the tiny coffins, praying while Buddhist monks around them chanted prayers. Later, they placed trays of food, toys and milk along the outside of the temple walls as offerings to the spirits of their slain children.

“Today, all the relatives will hold a ceremony to guide children’s souls back to the temple,” said Panida Prawana, a relative of a victim.

The mourning ceremony will continue for three days before the funerals and a cremation of the bodies according to Buddhist tradition.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha is expected to attend an evening prayer at one of the temples later Sunday.

The mass killing on Thursday was the nation’s deadliest, with the perpetrator killing dozens at the Young Children’s Development Center in Uthai Sawan and wounding several others. He then left the daycare center and drove home, where he killed his wife and son before taking his own life.

Police identified the attacker as Panya Kamrap, 34, a former police sergeant fired earlier this year because of a drug charge involving methamphetamine.

An employee at the day care told Thai media that Panya’s son had attended the center but hadn’t been there for about a month. Police have said they believe Panya was under stress from tensions between him and his wife, and money problems.

Mass killings in Thailand are rare but not unheard of.

In 2020, a disgruntled soldier opened fire in and around a mall in the northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima, killing 29 people and holding off security forces for some 16 hours before being killed by them.

Prior to that, a 2015 bombing was carried out at a shrine in Bangkok that killed 20 people, allegedly by human traffickers in retaliation for a crackdown on their network.

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