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‘Miracle’ Survives Thai Kindergarten Massacre Sleeping Under Blanket

'Miracle' Survives Thai Kindergarten Massacre Sleeping Under Blanket
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UTHAI SAWAN, Thailand, Oct 9 (Reuters) – A three-year-old boy who managed to survive last week’s massacre at a kindergarten in northeastern Thailand dozed under a blanket in the corner of his classroom.

Paveenut Supolwong, nicknamed “Ammy,” is usually a light sleeper, her parents said, but Ammy was fast asleep with a blanket covering her face Thursday when the killer entered the kindergarten and began killing 22 children.

It probably saved his life.

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He was the only survivor of a kindergarten after former police officer Panya Khamrap killed more than 30 people, most of them children, in Uthai Savan township.

“I’m in shock,” said Panompai Sithong, Ammi’s mother. “I feel for the other families…I’m glad my child survived. It’s a mix of sadness and gratitude.”

At the family’s wooden house on Sunday, relatives and neighbors shared a plate of fish, papaya salad and thoughts about the tragedy.

They alternated between bewilderment and sudden absent-minded toothy grins over Ammi, who was playing in the courtyard in a floral robe with an amulet around her neck.

Ammi’s parents said she had no recollection of the tragedy. After the killer left, someone found him moving in a far corner of the classroom and took him away, covering his head with a blanket so that his classmates wouldn’t see their bodies.

According to the police, 11 of the 22 children who were stabbed to death died in the classroom where he slept. Two other children were hospitalized with serious head injuries.

RARE MOMENTS OF JOY

On Sunday afternoon, the family sat in a circle as a religious leader led a Buddhist ceremony for children who had endured bad experiences and read from a Sanskrit prayer book.

Ammi sat patiently on her mother’s lap, shyly looking around with big eyes and playing with the two candles in her hand.

Relatives asked each other for blessings by pouring rice wine from a silver bowl.

They stuffed Ammi’s tiny wrists with white threads for good luck, pinched her cheeks and whispered their blessings.

It was a rare moment of joy in a city engulfed in grief.

In addition to the massacre at the kindergarten, Panya rammed his pickup truck into passers-by on the street and opened fire on neighbors for two hours. Finally, he killed his wife, son and himself.

In a close-knit society, few people remained untouched.

From Sunday morning, the families of the victims gathered at the temples where the bodies were kept in coffins. They brought food, milk and toys for the spirits of the dead according to local customs.

Later in the day, they sat down for a Buddhist ceremony in the nursery, where mourners left wreaths of white flowers and more gifts.

At Ammi’s house, her mother said she believed spirits were protecting her little girl.

“My child is not a deep sleeper,” said Panompai. “I believe there are some spirits covering his eyes and ears. We have different beliefs, but in my opinion, it protected my child.”

Another relative told local media that Ammi’s survival was a “miracle”.

But the family had to tell him that his best friend, two-year-old Techin, and his teacher had died. “He was asking his grandmother, ‘Why don’t you pick up Techi from school?'” Panompai said.

He does not yet know the extent of the tragedy he has experienced.

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Written by Poppy McPherson; Edited by Susan Fenton

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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