UTHAI SAWAN, Thailand (AP) — The little girl’s nickname was Plai Fon. Means “end of rainy season” in Thai – time of happiness.
And then, in a horrific explosion of violence, the happiness the chubby-cheeked 4-year-old symbolized for his loving family was shattered. Instead, there is unimaginable agony over what happened to Plai Fon. In a massacre that began at a daycare center in Thailand and 36 people plus the killer died.
Her mother, 28-year-old Tukta Wongsila, remembered her daughter’s usual morning routine. His grief for Tukta’s memory soon took his breath away.
At least 24 of the victims of Thursday’s shooting and stabbing attack in northeastern Thailand were mostly preschool children. The day after their short life ended, their desperate families spent hours outside an administrative office near the day care center, waiting for their children’s bodies to be released.
Authorities had told families to gather at the office so they could process their compensation claims and meet with the prime minister. However, Tukta did not care about forms or formalities. He just wanted his little girl.
“I want to get my daughter back to the ceremony as soon as possible,” she wailed, tears welling in her red eyes. “All this insurance money, I don’t want it. I just want it back for the funeral.”
Tukta and his family live in Uthai Sawan, a rural community in one of the poorest parts of the country, not far from the Laos border. Like many residents, they have long struggled to pay the bills.
Tukta and her husband work on the family’s rice farm during the growing season, making about $2,600 a year if they’re lucky. They take odd jobs on their off days to increase their income. The couple and their children share a house with Tukta’s mother-in-law and bedridden father-in-law. Moving to a larger city for better jobs proved impossible due to their need to care for their young children and aging parents.
Plai Fon, whose official name is Siriprapa Prasertsuk, was the eldest of Tukta’s two children, three years older than her brother. She was tiny, with black hair and full cheeks that turned into a bright smile. It was the smile that her 62-year-old grandmother, Bandal Pornsora, was already missing.
“She was a very good girl,” Bandal said. “Such a good girl.”
On Thursday, Plai Fon went to the Young Child Development Center, the walls of which are decorated with cheerful flower and butterfly paintings. It was late afternoon when a dismissed police officer began shooting and stabbing children wrapped in cushions and blankets who were taking their afternoon naps.
On Friday, as Tukta awaited her daughter’s body, she found herself contemplating the horror that Plai Fon must have endured in her final moments.
“I want to see my daughter, I want to see how she looks,” he said. “I don’t know how much pain it’s caused him. If he’s (even) asleep, he must have felt the pain. I don’t know what took his life. I just want to see your face.”
Eventually, hours later, the deceased would travel to a nearby Buddhist temple where their loved ones had gathered to retrieve the bodies.
Families coming out of the temple said they saw large cuts in their children. Many screamed. Some fainted.
Tukta entered the temple with her husband and mother-in-law. When they came out, Tukta’s husband passed out. He was taken to the hospital.
Tukta sobbed into her father’s arms. He said that Plai Fon’s eyes were wide open.
On the lawn behind the temple, the two embraced, trying to provide unmatched comfort.
Tukta clung to a framed photograph that Plai Fon had drawn with a yellow pencil and staring at the camera with wide, dark eyes. Fingers wiggled at the edge of the frame as the teen leaned against her parents, both wiping away their tears.
Tukta said that every night before going to bed, Plai Fon said “I want to sleep with my mom”.
Tukta cried in memory.
“These are words I hear every night,” he said. “But I missed those words last night.”
Associated Press writer Kristen Gelineau in Sydney contributed to this report.
Leave a Comment