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Thai massacre victims that include 24 children are prepared for funeral rites

The relative of a victim in a mass killing attack prays for a Buddhist ceremony inside Wat Rat Samakee temple in Uthai Sawan, north eastern Thailand, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022. A former police officer burst into a day care center in northeastern Thailand on Thursday, killing dozens of preschoolers and teachers before shooting more people as he fled. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
The relative of a victim in a mass killing attack prays for a Buddhist ceremony inside Wat Rat Samakee temple in Uthai Sawan, north eastern Thailand, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022. A former police officer burst into a day care center in northeastern Thailand on Thursday, killing dozens of preschoolers and teachers before shooting more people as he fled. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

UTHAI SAWAN, Thailand — Families of victims in last week's massacre at a day care center gathered Tuesday at Buddhist temples in rural northeastern Thailand for the start of a shared cremation ceremony that marks an end to three days of funeral rites.

The gun and knife attack carried out by a former policeman Thursday on the Young Children's Development Center in Uthai Sawan killed 36 people, including 24 children.

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

Volunteer rescue worker Attarith Muangmangkang said his organization arranged for the costumes and assisted the families with changing the victims' outfits Tuesday.

"The more we talked (to the families), we realized that these children also had dreams of becoming doctors, soldiers, astronauts, or police officers," Attarith said. "We provided those uniforms for them."

Mourners also placed children's toys, candles, and incense sticks in front of portraits of the victims at Rat Samakee temple, just 3 kilometers (2 miles) from the scene of the bloodshed.

Petchrung Sriphirom, 73, was one of many local residents who traveled to the temple to offer condolences to the families and make a small donation to help with funeral costs, which is a common Thai tradition.

"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,"

Rat Samakee temple will cremate 19 bodies in a simultaneous cremation ceremony Tuesday evening along with two other nearby temples that account for the other victims.

The temples have installed makeshift pyres to deal with the high number of bodies from last week's massacre, which was the biggest mass killing by an individual in the country's history.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.