(Update 1: Adds details of king and queen visit in pars 6-9, corrects name of town in par 2)
Bangkok, Oct 8 (EFE).- Buddhist funeral rites began on Saturday in Thailand’s northeastern province of Nong Bua Lamphu for victims of the nursery massacre that shocked the country.
Thailand and especially the rural town of Uthai Sawan are still reeling over Thursday’s gun and knife attack that left 38 dead, including at least 22 children and the perpetrator.
In one temple, relatives and monks gathered to pray, light candles and incense, and place flowers and offerings in front of coffins. On top of each casket sat a photograph of the child or adult inside.
Toys and other items, such as clothing and even a bicycle, were tethered to coffins by white “holy” string, which people believe is a way to send the objects to their deceased loved ones.
According to local media, relatives will hold the funeral rites for three days in at least three temples in the area, and then a symbolic cremation will be held ahead of individual private cremations.
Late Friday night, the country’s King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida met with relatives and wounded survivors at a hospital to offer condolences.
“I have come here to visit and give you all my support today. I’m saddened by what happened. It’s a time of grief and sorrow,” the king said in footage released online after the visit. “There are no words that can express this feeling but I do share your grief.”
“I offer you my condolences and hope you will stay strong so that the spirits of the children can be at ease. We will make merit and pray for those who have passed away (…) We also have to think about what we should do now and do the best we can,” he added.
The perpetrator of the massacre has been identified as Panya Kamrarb, a 34-year-old former police officer who was arrested for methamphetamine possession and expelled from the force.
Early Thursday afternoon he burst into the nursery and carried out the attack, killing mostly children while they were napping, authorities said.
He then fled in a white pickup truck, sparking a manhunt, and went to his house where he murdered his wife and son before committing suicide.
Among the fatalities in the nursery, which catered for children from the age of two to five, was a pregnant teacher. Another 15 were wounded, eight of them seriously.
Gun ownership in Thailand is relatively high compared with other countries in the region, but mass shootings of this nature are rare.
In 2020, a soldier killed at least 29 people and wounded 58 in northeastern Nakhon Ratchasima province.
Last month, a soldier shot dead two colleagues and wounded another at the Army War College of the Army Training Command in Bangkok. EFE