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“Families Bid Farewell as Thai Massacre Victims are Cremated” by The Associated Press (abridged article)

UTHAI SAWAN, Thailand — Hundreds of mourners and victims' families gathered Tuesday evening to watch flames burn from rows of makeshift furnaces at cremation ceremonies for the young children and others who died in last week's mass killings at a day care center in Thailand's rural northeast.

Families bid their final goodbyes at a Buddhist temple a short distance from the Young Children's Development Center in the town of Uthai Sawan, where a former policeman, who was fired from his job earlier this year for using drugs, barged in last Thursday and shot and stabbed children and their caregivers.

The police sergeant, Panya Kamrap, ended up killing 36 people, 24 of them children, in this small farming community before taking his own life. It was the biggest mass killing by an individual in Thailand's history.

Joint ceremonies for most of the victims were held at three temples to spare families from having to wait long hours for successive cremations to be completed, Phra Kru Adisal Kijjanuwat, the abbot of the Rat Samakee temple, said.

After the coffins were placed on each of the small, brick furnaces, the victims' relatives came forward in the darkening skies to put portraits of their loved ones on top. Some family members also placed children's toys alongside.

On Tuesday morning, many of the young victims' bodies had been outfitted as doctors, soldiers or astronauts — what they wanted to be when they grew up — before their evening cremation.

"The more we talked (to the families), we realized that these children also had dreams of becoming doctors, soldiers, astronauts, or police officers," said volunteer rescue worker Attarith Muangmangkang, whose organization arranged for the costumes.

"I just want to help our friends and share our thoughts with them," said Petchrung. "We are not talking about money or anything but rather sharing our thoughts and feelings as a fellow human being."

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