Teacher praised for protecting pupils from mentally ill attacker

Teacher praised for protecting pupils from mentally ill attacker

Teacher Thawatchai Duangtham shows scratches on his elbows after the incident. (Photo: Makkawan Wannakul)
Teacher Thawatchai Duangtham shows scratches on his elbows after the incident. (Photo: Makkawan Wannakul)

The government praised a teacher at a primary school in Chaiyaphum province for protecting about 100 young children from an attack by a mentally ill man during their morning assembly on Wednesday. The teacher sustained minor injuries.

Deputy government spokeswoman Kenika Oonjit said on Thursday that the government praised Thawatchai Duangtham, the teacher at Ban Namphu Hinlard School in tambon Thung Na Lao of Khon San district.

"He protected students, fought the deranged intruder at the school and was himself wounded in his hand and arms," Ms Kenika said.

"The government praises the courage and dedication of this teacher. Without him, schoolchildren and other people might have been harmed or there could have been greater damage," the spokeswoman said.

After the incident on Wednesday, Mr Thawatchai, the 32-year-old physical education teacher, said the deranged man entered the school on his motorcycle, wielding a large knife and shouting, as the morning assembly was about to end.

At that moment, he said, he was aware that he had to save the young kids.

"He ran after children. Teachers rushed the minors to their building to take shelter. I stepped in his way while two children remained at the scene and could not make it to the building," the male teacher said.

He pulled the kids behind his back and dodged when the attacker tried to slash him with the long knife.

"The knife narrowly passed my nose. I pulled the kids away and fell. I got up and pushed his hand away," the teacher said.

The newly-recruited teacher said his right hand suffered a tiny cut and his elbows were grazed when he fell to the ground.

Villagers shouted from the school fences before the deranged man escaped on his motorcycle, the teacher said.

Seconds before the attack, Mr Thawatchai said he mistook the man for a visiting parent until the moment he saw the knife. At that moment, about 100 children and 10 teachers were present.

Then the man shouted at him, the teacher said, telling him to resign and leave the school. Mr Thawatchai said he had never seen him before.

"I was afraid and felt sorry for the children because they were crying, screaming and running in all directions," the teacher said.

The incident happened when the school opened its gate to receive pupils and parents in the morning, he said.

Sombat Traisak, acting governor of Chaiyaphum, said there were more than 500 mentally ill people in this northeastern province and officials concerned would have to find out if their families regularly brought the patients for treatment.

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