Families of Thai shooting victims wait for answers, bodies

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Morgue staff a push a trolley with a coffin at a morgue, Korat, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. Thai officials say a soldier who went on a shooting rampage and killed numerous people and injured dozens of others has been shot dead inside the mall in northeastern Thailand. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

NAKHON RATCHASIMA – 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.

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 Sunday, waiting to fill out paperwork to lay claim to their loved ones and receive compensation from the Thai government's criminal victims’ fund.

On Facebook, she had talked with her sister, 33-year-old Papatchaya Nualraksa, as she hid with her husband and their 2-year-old in a supermarket storage room. Sirirat advised her sister to nurse her son so he wouldn't make noise and risk revealing the family to the gunman, whose rounds of automatic fire echoed around the seven-story mall.

In a Facebook call, Papatchaya told her sister that she was scared.

“Gunshots could be heard endlessly and loudly. But there was no sign” of a rescue, Sirirat said. Still, “both of us thought that she would be able to get out.”

They exchanged several Facebook messages before Papatchaya went quiet.

About 13 hours later, the standoff ended when Thai special forces fatally shot the gunman, whom authorities identified as Sgt. Maj. Jakrapanth Thomma.

Sirirat, 43, later received photos from a friend, an officer who responded to the mall, of the body of her sister, arms wrapped around her 2-year-old, and the boy’s father nearby.