UTHAI SAWAN, Thailand (HPD) — Families brought flowers, dolls, popcorn and juice boxes to offer to children killed at a daycare center in Thailand as part of a Buddhist ceremony Sunday to guide young souls. back to their bodies.
“Come back to your house” and “come back to us”, expressed relatives in the empty nursery, many with tears in their eyes.
The gun and knife attack at the Child Development Center in Uthai Sawan was Thailand’s worst mass murder. Former police officer Panya Kamrap, 34, killed two dozen people at the nursery before claiming more lives as he fled, including his wife and his son, police said. He then killed himself.
Ceremonies were held Sunday at three temples, where the 36 victims, mostly preschool children, were brought before funeral rites and cremation on Tuesday.
Maneerat Tanonethong, whose 3-year-old son Chaiyot Kijareon was killed at the nursery, said the rituals were helping her with her grief.
“I am determined to try to leave this, that I will not hold a grudge against the perpetrator and I will understand that all this will end in this life,” said the mother.
At the Rat Samakee temple, family members sat in front of small coffins while Buddhist monks chanted prayers. Trays of food, toys, and milk were placed throughout the temple as offerings to the spirits of the murdered children.
They made offerings of their children’s favorite foods and lit incense and candles as they prayed for the children’s souls to return to their bodies.
Many Buddhists in Thailand believe that in the event of an unnatural death, the soul is stranded in the place where the person perished and must be reunited with the body before eventual rebirth.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and members of his cabinet attended evening prayers at the three temples. Prayuth was accompanied by Deputy Prime Ministers Prawit Wongsuwan and Anutin Charnvirakul.
Police said the attacker was a police sergeant fired earlier this year after being charged with a drug offence.
An employee of the nursery informed the local press that Panya’s son attended the center, but he missed almost a month. Police believe Panya was under stress due to tensions between him and his wife, and money problems.
The attack has shocked everyone in the small community, drawing international media attention to the remote rural area. On Sunday, Thai authorities fined two CNN journalists for working in the country on tourist visas, but exempted them from liability for entering the nursery, saying they had filmed inside believing they had obtained permission.
The deputy chief of the national police, Surachate Hakparn, stated that the journalists were invited to enter the building by a volunteer or a health official, and that they did not know that this person was not authorized to allow them entry.
The journalists involved apologized in a video.
In a statement, Mike McCarthy, Executive Vice President and CEO of CNN International, said the team requested permission to enter the building, but “we now know that these officials were not authorized to grant this permission.”