People gather as they pray for victims who died in a mass shooting at Terminal 21 shopping mall in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, Feb 10, 2020. (Photo: Agencies)
NAKHON RATCHASIMA, Thailand－Sirirat Nualraksa blinked back tears as the ambulances delivered gurneys bearing cloth-shrouded bodies to the morgue of a public hospital after a vengeful Thai soldier killed 29 people and wounded dozens of others in a shopping mall rampage late on Saturday.
Sirirat lost her sister, brother-in-law and young nephew in the attack. She was among dozens of victims' relatives sitting in plastic chairs and on concrete benches outside the morgue on Sunday, waiting to fill out paperwork to lay claim to their loved ones and receive compensation from the Thai government's criminal victims' fund.
At the hospital, a team from the government mental health department handed out cakes and tissues, screening people for abnormal expressions of grief, according to Wimonwan Panyawong, a clinical psychologist who traveled from Bangkok northeast to Nakhon Ratchasima, a city of 150,000 people about 250 kilometers away.
The hospital's lone forensic pathologist was joined by two others from out of town, but officials said it could be days before autopsies were complete and the bodies could be handed to families.
Gun violence is not unheard of in Thailand, and the shooting in Nakhon Ratchasima comes just a month after another high-profile mall shooting in the central Thai city of Lopburi. In that case, a masked gunman carrying a handgun killed three people, including a 2-year-old boy, and wounded four others as he robbed a jewelry store.
By Sunday evening, survivors were streaming back to the site of the rampage, Terminal 21 Korat, a gleaming airport-themed shopping mall, to retrieve vehicles abandoned during the police evacuation.
Elsewhere in the city, about 1,000 people gathered around the city's most important monument, a statue of Thao Suranari, who is credited with saving her people from an invading Lao king in the early 19th century. People chanted prayers along with a slate of Buddhist priests leading funeral rites, holding candles in one hand and with the other, pointing to the sky, a gesture Buddhists believe directs souls to heaven.