The death toll has risen to at least 37 people including 24 children, after a disgruntled former police officer opened fire inside a childcare center in northeastern Thailand, before taking his own life Thursday. Photo courtesy of Ruamkatanyu Foundation/EPA-EFE
Oct. 6 (UPI) -- The death toll has risen to at least 37 people, after a disgruntled former police officer opened fire inside a childcare center in northeastern Thailand on Thursday.
Two dozen children are among the dead, as are members of the suspect's family.
Some victims were as young as 2 years old and were attacked while they slept.
Panya Kamrab, 34, shot his own family in addition to the shooting at the childcare center before taking his own life, according to police.
At least another dozen people were wounded in the rampage but survived.
Kamrab's own child had previously attended the childcare center but hadn't been there for at least a month, according to its owner. More than 90 children normally attend the school on a daily basis but bad weather and a school bus breakdown mean there were only around 20 present on Thursday.
The attack began around 12:30 p.m. in Nong Bua Lamphu province, more than 300 miles northeast of Bangkok, where police say Kamrab committed the deadliest rampage in the country's history.
The dead at the school included mostly preschoolers -- among them 19 boys and three girls. At least two adults were also shot to death before Kamrab fled toward his home, opening fire on innocent bystanders along the way, police said.
After arriving at his house, Kamrab murdered his wife and child and then turned the gun on himself, according to deputy national police chief Lt. Gen. Torsak Sukwimol.
The assailant was fired from his job in June and was charged with methamphetamine possession. A verdict in the case was expected Friday, according to the Royal Thai Police.
The Central Investigation Bureau initially issued a wanted alert for Kamrab, who fled the scene in a white Toyota pickup truck.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha ordered government responders to the scene to provide immediate assistance to the wounded.
"According to the shocking incident reported in Hong Bua Lamphu this afternoon, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the families of the lost and injured," the prime minister said in a statement.
Witnesses later said they locked the doors to the school when they first observed the suspect approaching with several weapons, but that he shot his way in.
One teacher was killed with "a child in her arms," another witness told local news stations in the aftermath of the attack.
"The United States was horrified by the tragic shooting at a day care center in Nong ua Lam Phu Province, Thailand," U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement issued by the White House.
"The images are heartbreaking and 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."
Thailand's worst shooting rampage before Thursday's attack happened in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima in 2020, when a soldier killed 29 people.