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Knife Attack At St Joseph's Convent School

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SCHOOL HORROR: Four girls hurt, one critical, in stabbing at prestigious St Joseph’s. Police launch frantic hunt for 31-yr-old woman

Published on September 10, 2005

A knife-wielding woman stabbed and seriously injured four students at a well-known convent school in the heart of Bangkok yesterday, in a case of unprovoked school assault that police suspect could be the work of a mentally ill person.

The attacker, whom witnesses described as a lean wo-man in her late twenties or early thirties, walked into a classroom of the Saint Joseph Convent School in the Silom area just before morning classes started, and randomly stabbed students within her reach with fruit knives before making an easy escape from the school.

The assault, the first known case of an unprovoked school attack in Thailand after several other similar incidents earlier reported in countries such as China and Japan, sent a shock wave through the public and prompted an outcry for better school security.

Last night, police named the suspect as Jitrada Tantiwanich-ayasuk, 31, and were frantically hunting for her.

The victims, aged between 12 and 14 years old, remained hospitalised as of last night. Among the three seriously injured victims, one was in critical condition.

“We will urgently bring the attacker to justice,” said Lt-General Pansiri Prapawat, the Metropolitan Police commissioner. He said the attacker would face charges of attempted murder.

He has assigned Metropo-litan Police Division 5 deputy commander, Colonel Chan Choonhawong, to head up the investigation.

Jitrada was reportedly living with her aunt in Bangkok’s Tha Phra area while her mother, Thanyaporn Tantiwanich-ayakul, lives in Nakhon Pathom.

Thanyaporn said her daughter had sought mental treatment from various healthcare providers. “But she has never hurt anyone,” she insisted.

The vicious stabbing happened shortly after 7am just as parents were dropping their children off for class and many students were exercising and dancing on the open-air ground floor of a school building.

“I was watching the students dancing when I saw a physical-education teacher carrying a blood-soaked student in his arms and rushed her into a school van. Shortly thereafter, another teacher came along carrying another injured student. I knew then that there must be something wrong,” said Suksan Jittimaneerat, 40, a Public Health Ministry official, who was at the school to see his first-grade daughter off to class.

The scene soon became chaotic as teachers called on their students to go inside their classrooms and parents were ushered out of the school compound. Some parents were so shocked that they fainted. Many others frantically tried to contact their children via cell phones.

Convent Road, where the school is located, was quickly closed to traffic as police officers, reporters and many parents, who later heard of the attack, flocked to the school. The road is off Silom Road in downtown Bangkok.

After police arrived, an hour after the attack, the school locked the students in the classrooms. Police officers and male teachers scoured the compound to check whether the attacker was still inside.

Prapai Makhumlek, a motorcycle taxi driver who had been waiting for customers on Convent Road yesterday morning, later told police that a woman had hurriedly walked up to him and hired him to drive her to a bus stop near Saphan Luang.

His description of her physical appearance matched others made by witnesses at the school.

“She told me to hurry. Initially she said she wanted to go to Ploenchit, but she changed her mind while on the way. Finally, I dropped her off at a bus stop near Saphan Luang,” he said.

The taxi driver said the woman, who he believed was about 30 years old, asked him to help her open a roadside garbage bin and she threw something inside. When police checked the bin, they found a two-inch-long fruit knife wrapped in a piece of cloth.

Three other bloodstained knives were found in the school compound.

At 10am, the school started checking parents’ identification cards before allowing them to pick up their children. The students were required to stay in their classrooms until their parents came. All classes were suspended for the day.

Deputy Public Health Minister Anutin Charnveerakul, Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang and Bangkok Governor Apirak Kosayodhin came to supervise.

Saint Joseph Convent School - a girls-only school - is a prestigious institution and most students are from rich families.

All of the injured students were rushed to Bangkok Nursing Home Hospital, located just 50 metres from the school.

Chayamon Trailertsamut, 14, sustained four knife wounds in her left arm and chest. Chamanat Arif, 12, needed an operation as the knife had cut into her liver and kidney. Jinjutha Rerksirinukool, 13, also needed an operation as the knife had pierced her intestine.

Apisatha Boonnam, 14, was most seriously injured. She was stabbed in the left shoulder, back and chest, puncturing her lung. She remained in critical condition last night.

-- From The Nation - 10/09/2005

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Just read online, the kids will all be ok, thankfully, including the young girl in critical cond (hopefully). This bizarre incident rcvd a heap of press in the Thai media and for once perhaps 'sensationalism' will have a positive effect- Thailand has one main state mental facility over the bridge in Thonburi and the general public view of mental disorders is well, "less than progressive", to be polite.

Apparently the lady who attacked these kids has been recognised as having serious mental health issues for years, yet was in effect either ignored, shunned or swept under the carpet- without rcvng proper follow up care or diagnosis. Hopefully all the press furor will cause a beginning of a progressive change in prevailing societal attitudes by Govt, institutions and individuals- and the true state of the Thai mental health system (or lack therof) is examined. Well, one can hope... :D

The response thus far, has been to make a public cariacture of the attacker (further re-inforcing negative societal attitudes toward mental health issues), adding a few surveillance cameras, an authorized parental pick-up list and a couple more guards at the school. That may sound prudent but is akin to applying a hopelessly tiny bandage over the larger societal problem and attitudes.

Pollyanna-esque rant over :o

Edited by baht&sold

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