One year after daycare shooting massacre in rural Thailand, grieving families heal thanks to monks and commemorations

- through Henry Oudin

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Phra Adisai, abbot of Wat Rat Samakkhi temple, meeting a relative's child on July 4, 2023. Image by Wilawan Watcharasakwej. From BenarNews

October 6 marks the first anniversary of a former police officer's attack on a daycare center in the rural town of Uthai Sawan in northeastern Thailand, killing 36 people, including 24 small children. (AP News) Since then, traumatized families have sought comfort from Dharma guidance and solace from Buddhist monks who hope to help the grieving gradually heal over time.

On October 6, 2022, Panya Kamrap, a former police officer fired for a drug charge involving methamphetamine, drove to the Early Childhood Development Center in Nong Bua Lam Phu province. He carried out his murderous rampage before fleeing home, killing his wife and child, before turning the gun on himself and killing himself. The former officer had a history of mental illness and substance abuse dating back to high school, and at the time of his murderous act, he was suffering from financial, emotional and marital problems.

Since the massacre, relatives had already been giving alms to the monks four times a month, marking the Thai custom of venerating the spirits of deceased loved ones. (Benar News) But a year later, the horrible memories of that dark day remain vivid for the families and loved ones of the victims, especially since last Tuesday, a 14-year-old boy with a handgun killed two people and injured others five. others in a Bangkok shopping center. Thailand traditionally has a low rate of gun crime.

On Friday, about 200 people attended a silent ceremony to mark the first anniversary of the "unfathomable agony" unleashed by the killer, which local authorities intentionally avoided calling a memorial service, reframing it as simply an event "intended to preserve the local population. traditions. » (AP News) The purpose of the religious ceremony, true to Thai conventions, was to bless good fortune and strengthen faith in the community and in Dharma. Officials and residents from Uthai Sawan and neighboring communities in Nong Bua Lamphu province were present. As AP News reported, they dressed in colorful traditional clothing, offered alms (dana) to a dozen monks and prayed as one grieving community at the local administration office, near the site of the murders. Some of the mourners then went to the building that was once the daycare – now abandoned – and paid their respects by offering food and drinks, in the hope that the slain children would enjoy these treats and treats. drinks in the afterlife. (AP News)

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Phra Adisai, the abbot of Wat Rat Samakkhi temple, told BenarNews earlier in July that he had offered his support to all the mourners. He was the godfather of more than a dozen murdered children. He had “spiritually adopted” 15 before the massacre because their parents hoped that having a monk as a pastoral companion and godfather would benefit them and have a positive effect on their community.

“I knew all these children since they were born. Today the temple is calm, unlike before when they were running around happily. Some of them held my robes when I went out for morning alms. I was saddened that day,” Phra Adisai told BenarNews, recalling last year’s massacre. “I lost my 15 adopted children.” (BenarNews)

Since the killings, some of the parents of the deceased children have been visiting his temple regularly to receive blessings. “I told the survivors that all the children went to heaven – they are little angels. They didn’t do any bad deed – they are angels in heaven,” he told BenarNews earlier this year. Currently, he is more concerned with helping those the children left behind in the process of coming to terms with their senseless and brutal deaths. “Their anger, trauma and agony have been somewhat healed. » (BenarNews)

Some of the surviving victims, like Kamthorn Thongpod, now paralyzed (he currently has to breathe through a respirator), have chosen to forgive the perpetrator through the teachings of Phra Adisai. But others just can't forget. In the words of Tawee Lasopha, whose daughter was among the victims: “These days, when I go out to see the neighbors, they tell me to forget it. How could I forget? I can't forget it for the rest of my life. This child... I can't forget him. (AP News)

Kingsad Poolgasem, a village chief in Uthai Sawan, told AP News that some families appeared to be slowly recovering. “The mental state of the people in the community, even those of the families of the victims who were affected, is starting to return to normal, because we have incorporated the help of several things, whether through the assistance of groups neighbors (or ) the village committee uses the principles of Buddhism to help comfort their minds. I still worry. I don't want anything bad to happen again. We now resort to inspections, checkpoints, patrols; whether around the village or around the sub-district. We must care for and help our people until all is well with them. (AP News)

The clearest sign of a new beginning — a determination by the community and the city not to let the shadow of Panya Kamrap linger indefinitely — was the planning of a new, yet-to-be-built day care center. For now, operations of the old daycare have since been moved to a school a few miles away. But it's the physical infrastructure that is perhaps the least of the city's concerns. Traumatized monks and townspeople who need spiritual and emotional support have a long road to recovery.

Elderly Thongkul Phupadhin says it is very difficult for her to return to the site where she lost her 4-year-old granddaughter. At the gates of the old center, where offerings are still left, she cried as she offered snacks like chips, crackers, cupcakes and chicken, as well as sweet drinks that the children would have enjoyed. “I still miss her so much,” she said, crying. “I always go to the temple. I always offer food to the monks. Whatever she wanted to eat, whatever she ate, I always offered it to her as a merit. (AP News)

Whether it is those in Uthai Sawan whose hearts have been burned by the unbearable experience of losing a child or grandchild so violently and prematurely, or the survivors who must live every day with physical reminders of the senseless brutality of the last year, the community must get through this together. , their grief and strength fortified by the Dharma of the monks who share their pain.

See more

One year after Thai daycare massacre, family deals with grief (AP News)
Buddhist abbot helps grieving Thai community cope and heal after 2022 daycare massacre (Benar News)
Modest Buddhist ceremony marks anniversary of Thailand daycare massacre (AP News)
Modest Buddhist ceremony marks anniversary of Thailand daycare massacre (ABC News)

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Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

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