Thai King Vajiralongkorn visits mass shooting victims in hospital

Monarch tells families 'I share your sorrow' after dozens killed at nursery in northern province

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Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn on Friday visited the victims and relatives of those killed in a mass shooting at a nursery in north-eastern Nong Bua Lamphu province.

Accompanied by Queen Suthida, he was greeted by about 50 supporters, some wearing the king's official colour yellow, outside the hospital.

As the king offered his help and condolences during his hospital visit, grieving families knelt on the floor — as is Thai custom in the presence of the monarch, who is seen as semi-divine.

"I come here to give you support. I am extremely sad for what has happened. I share your sorrow, your grief," he said in video footage published online on Saturday.

"There are no words that can express the sorrow. I support you all and wish you to be strong, so the spirits of the children can be at ease."

Thailand was rocked by the shooting and stabbing attack, in which 24 children and 12 adults were killed by a former police officer named by authorities as Panya Khamrab.

Most died from a combination of knife wounds and gunshots, according to police investigators.

The attacker ended his life after killing his wife and son after the nursery massacre.

“The king has shown the utmost sympathy to the Nong Bua Lamphu people and the children killed in the attack by coming here. I just feel so grateful that he's coming to see the Nong Bua Lamphu people,” said Sodsri Yangyuen, 61.

Kesininat Amatratana, 63, said she came to show her gratitude to the king for supporting the community.

“If I don't come here, then I won't be able to live with myself. I'm grateful for his care for the people,” she said.

Photos published on the government media department's official Facebook page showed the king, dressed in a dark grey suit, greeting people at the hospital, accompanied by the queen.

On Saturday, families and well-wishers offered prayers at a Buddhist temple, beginning three days of funeral rituals for the victims.

Incense mingled with the smell of bouquets of flowers arrayed around the coffins, many topped with photos of the smiling chubby faces of the child victims.

Tukta Wongsila, 28, recalled how her daughter, nicknamed Plai Fon, would say "‘I love you, mommy and daddy and brother", each day after waking up.

Plai Fon, whose formal name was Siriprapa Prasertsuk, was three years older than her baby brother. She was tiny, with black hair and plump cheeks that pulled up into a radiant smile.

It was a smile her grandmother, 62-year-old Bandal Pornsora, already missed.

“She was a such a good girl,” she said. “Such a good girl.”

With reporting from AFP and AP.

Updated: October 08, 2022, 9:01 AM
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