Survivor’s trauma lingers a year after the daycare centre massacre in northeast Thailand

Picture courtesy of Bangkok Post.

The trauma of the brutal daycare centre massacre at a Thai nursery still lingers, especially for Paweenuch Supolwong, a four year old survivor in Nong Bua Lamphu.

The horrific daycare centre massacre that unfolded a year ago in the rural village of Uthai Sawan, ended in the deaths of 36 people, shattering the peace of this close-knit community.

Now, every movement of Paweenuch, affectionately known as Ammy, is under the watchful eyes of CCTV cameras installed both at her home and nursery. Her grandmother, Yupin Srithong, confessed to AFP about her lingering fear and reluctance to send Ammy back to school.

“I don’t want to let her out of my sight.”

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On October 6, 2022, during the children’s nap time, a former police officer, Panya Khamrab, committed the heinous act.

Armed with a knife and a gun, he slaughtered 12 adults and 24 children, all but one aged five or under, before taking his own life. The incident marked one of the deadliest massacres in Thailand’s history.

Ammy, who was asleep under a blanket, miraculously survived but the daycare centre massacre continues to haunt her. She is easily frightened by loud noises, Yupin revealed. She’ll say, “There’s shooting again” and she’ll then ask me to hug her.

Far from heaven

Uthai Sawan, roughly translated to heaven, is approximately 500 kilometres north of Bangkok in Nong Bua Lam Phu province, one of Thailand’s poorest regions.

Like many families in the area, Ammy’s parents relocated to Bangkok for better-paid work, leaving her in the care of her grandparents.

A white camera, installed by Ammy’s mother after the daycare centre massacre to monitor her from afar, is a stark reminder of the tragedy in the old wooden house.

Meanwhile, the peach-coloured, single-storey nursery, its doors taped shut, stands as a haunting reminder of the horrific event.

The fate of the building is yet to be decided, but plans for a new nursery, barely 250 metres away, are underway. A permanent memorial to the daycare centre massacre, according to local official Danaichok Boonsom, is also in discussion.

Nanticha Punchom, the head of Uthai Sawan Child Development Centre, who was present during the attack, told AFP that the children now play at a temporary nursery, its entrances monitored by CCTV cameras. They feel safe and at peace.

“The CCTV cameras make me feel safer.”

Daycare centre massacre motive

Panya’s motive for the daycare centre massacre remains unclear but his regular use of methamphetamine, a highly addictive stimulant widespread throughout Southeast Asia, points to a socio-economic crisis in the country.

Panya had been dismissed from the police due to drug abuse. Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who is due to visit the village in November, pledged to eradicate methamphetamine abuse, a daunting task given the drug’s record low street prices in 2022.

The daycare centre massacre has left an open wound in the community. Financial aid has been directed towards bereaved families, and psychological help has been offered to help them rebuild their lives.

Banyen Scrichanil, who lost her three year old grandson Nannaphat in the attack, used some of the payout to renovate their home. The pain of loss, however, remains etched in her sobs echoing against the new white tiles and freshly painted walls.

“I miss him every day. I dream about him every day.”

The entire community, connected in some way to the bereaved families, is shrouded in grief. Some have chosen to leave the daycare centre massacre in the past, but for others like Banyen and her husband Kham Pornnikhom, moving on is not that simple, Bangkok Post reported.

Banyen scrolls through photos and videos of her grandson on her phone, filling the silence of her empty house with echoes of his laughter and innocent joy.

“Beep beep!” Stamp yells as he rides a small bike around the home.

Banyen asked, “Where are you right now?” as silence crashed back into the room.

“I miss you, Stamp.”

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Thailand News

Atima Homtientong

Atima is a dedicated news writer living in Bangkok. With a degree from Mahidol University, she focuses on reporting key issues and happenings around the country. In her off time, Atima enjoys writing and producing music.

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