A day after the mass killing at Nong Bua Lamphu, a day of mourning was announced nationwide. Aid and compensation were being arranged. But netizens questioned bureaucratic ceremonies that may contaminate the crime scene and hinder what actually needs to be done.
Police officers and other officials at Uthai Sawan Child Development Centre after the killing. (Source: Pheu Thai Party press team)
The killings by an ex-police officer Panya Kamrab at a pre-school child development centre in Nong Bua Lamphu's Na Klang District left 38 dead and at least 10 injured, according to National Police Chief Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapat at a press conference on the night of 6 October.
The police chief said the Panya armed himself with a pistol and knife, legally purchased with his own money. The killer’s intention has not yet been determined and would need more forensic examination. Personal stress and drug addiction could not be ruled out of the equation for now, according to the Reporters.
On 8 October, Channel 3 reported that the blood test from Panya's body found no drug substances, meaning that the gunman may not take drugs within 72 hours before taking action.
The slaughter took place on 6 October, starting at about 13.00 when Panya killed 24 people in the child development centre, 22 of whom were children and two were teachers. He then took off in his car, ramming other vehicles and shooting at people along the way, before ending up at his house and killing himself along with his wife and child.
Pol Gen Damrongsak said the Prime Minister had ordered the establishment of a mental health treatment centre for the victim’s families facilitated by the police, the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, the Ministry of Public Health, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of the Interior.
He also said the police would have to learn a lesson from this incident to improve police operations and to find concrete solutions for the problems of drug addiction and mental health.
According to the Bangkok Post and Khaosod, the bodies have been taken to a morgue in neighbouring Udon Thani Province for autopsies. A victim’s family relief centre was also set up opposite the child development centre.
State mourning announced, aid on the way
Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha ordered government offices nationwide to lower flags to half-mast for one day on 7 October as a symbol of respect toward the victims and those who lost loved ones.
“The Prime Minister is deeply saddened by the incident. It is what nobody wanted to take place. And he wants every Thai to support each other to collectively overcome this grave loss together,” said Anucha Burapachaisri, Deputy Secretary-General the PM and Acting Government Spokesperson.
Since the incident, assistance and support have been flowing into the small province in Thailand’s Northeast. Nong Bua Lamphu hospital, one of those treating the wounded, called for urgent blood donations on 6 October which met with an overwhelming response.
The hospital posted that same night that they had received enough blood but later extended the donation period to noon on 7 October.
The National News Bureau of Thailand reported that the Cabinet has approved monetary compensation for the victims and families of 200,000 baht for the dead and the disabled, 100,000 baht for the seriously injured and 50,000 for the less seriously injured.
The Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security have also dispatched therapists, psychologists, and related officials from nearby provinces to monitor and support the victims’ families.
Government figures also visited the scene, starting with the Police Chief who flew to Nong Bua Lamphu after the killing followed by Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, Nong Bua Lamphu Pheu Thai MPs Chaiya Promma and Nattawut Kongjandee, along with other MPs and the Chair of the House Committee on Children, Youth, Women, Elderly, Disabled, Ethnic Groups and LGBT people.
Gen Surayud Chulanont, President of the Privy Council, along with Councillors Air Chief Marshal Chalit Pukbhasuk, Air Chief Marshal Johm Rungsawang and Ampon Kittiampon also visited and carried the condolences the King and the Queen to the wounded and victims’ families ahead of Their Majesties’ visit which was to take place on the evening of 7 October.
According to BBC Thai, those injured in the shooting have been taken under royal patronage. Those who died will also receive royal funerals .
Necessity of ceremonies questioned
At 08.46 on 7 October, Khaosod news agency in a live Facebook report from in front of the killing site at Uthai Sawan Child Development Centre showed the entrance being decorated with cloth and red carpets laid out.
Thairath News Show reported from nearby at about the same time, showing the red carpets and preparations. The reporter stated that the preparations were for the Governor of Nong Bua Lamphu to place a royal wreath of condolence at the entrance of the centre following a request from Princess Sirivannavari.
At 11.04 on the same day, the Thai News Agency posted a report of Nong Bua Lamphu Deputy Governor Suwit Chanhaworn placing the royal wreath and white rose bouquets.
Thairath’s livestream shows 50-70 government officials in white and khaki uniforms at the ceremony. The victims’ relatives were also invited to attend the ceremony at the place where they lost their loved ones, according to the report.
The red carpet was however removed before the Deputy Governor arrived to place the wreath.
The wreath and bouquets being placed after the red carpet had been removed. (Photo: Thai News Agency)
The relief centre across from the crime scene also experienced delays for the victims’ families to receive the bodies of their loved ones. They also had to wait for a ceremony to receive the monetary compensation, according to Ittipat Pinrarod, a reporter reporting from Nong Bua Lamphu.
The ceremonies at the crime scene prompted questions from netizens over their necessity and risk of contaminating evidence.
“imagine you lost your child and they laid the red carpet at the place where your child died the next day just to welcome someone,” stated a Twitter user.
Senior journalist Pravit Rojanaphurk also tweeted that rolling out a red carpet for a VVIP is ‘wrong & insensitive and should stop before it is too late’.
The MATTER, a Thai online magazine, also raised the question of whether bureaucratic ceremonies would hinder other work that is more important and are an appropriate response to the crisis.
Note: A grammatically-edited version has been replaced on 16.00 of 8 October 2022.