Thailand pre-school attack: Witnesses describe shocking attack

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People who witnessed a deadly rampage at a Thai pre-school centre have described the horrific moment a former police officer burst in and began shooting staff and children.

A distraught teacher told how she locked the door and tried to get help before the killer, armed with a gun and knife, shot his way in and attacked sleeping children.

She trembled as she told Thailand’s Thairath TV how she heard a sound “similar to firecrackers” and saw two colleagues lying on the floor before seeing the attacker walking towards her.

She said she told other colleagues to get into a room and had locked the door before climbing out over a wall to get help.

The teacher cried as she said she was not in time.

She said the killer was a parent of a child at the nursery and said he had seemed polite.

Nanthicha Punchum, acting chief of the nursery, told AFP the attacker arrived at lunchtime.

“There were some staff eating lunch outside the nursery and the attacker parked his car and shot four of them dead,” she said.

He then “smashed down the door with his leg and then came inside” and began attacking the children, she said.

A police officer stands guard outside a day care centre which was the scene of a mass shooting, in the town of Uthai Sawan, around 500 km northeast of Bangkok

Children as young as two were among the victims of the attack at the centre in the Nong Bua Lamphu province.

There were about 30 children at the centre when the gunman arrived, fewer than usual, as heavy rain had kept many people away, according to district official Jidapa Boonsom, who was working in an office nearby.

“The shooter came in around lunchtime and shot four or five officials at the childcare centre first,” Ms Jidapa told Reuters news agency.

The gunman then forced his way into a locked room where children were sleeping and attacked them, the official said.

READ ALSO: Thailand: At least 31 killed in attack on nursery 

At first people thought the shots were fireworks, she said.

“It’s really shocking. We were very scared and running to hide once we knew it was shooting. So many children got killed, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Paweena Purichan, 31, told AFP news agency she was riding her motorcycle to the shop when she encountered the killer trying to ram other drivers as he fled the scene in a truck.

“He intended to crash into others on the road,” she said.

“The attacker rammed a motorbike and two people were injured. I sped off to get away from him.

“There was blood everywhere,” she said.

Police named the attacker as Panya Kamrab, a police lieutenant colonel who had been dismissed from the force for drug use.

They said he had been described as agitated before the attack and had opened fire after being unable to find his child at the centre, according to broadcaster ThaiPBS.

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