Two CNN journalists who are set to be deported from Thailand over a visa issue have apologised “for causing more pain and suffering” after entering a nursery where 36 people died in a gun and knife attack.
In a video posted on social media on Monday morning, reporter Anna Coren and cameraman Daniel Hodge apologised to the families of those who died in the mass shooting and stabbing at the hands of an ex-police officer. The death toll from the massacre at the nursery in Uthai Sawan, a town 310 miles northeast of Bangkok, stood at 36, including 24 children aged between two and five.
“I would like to offer my deepest apologies to the people of Thailand, especially the families of victims of this tragedy – we are so sorry if we have caused you more pain and suffering, that was never our intention” Ms Coren said.
“We know your country is going through a painful time and we never came here to cause more grief.”
Thai authorities have fined the two journalists for working in the country on tourist visas but cleared them of wrongdoing as the pair had been waved into the building by a volunteer or a health officer, but did not know the person was not authorised to allow them inside.
The CNN staff each agreed to pay fines of 5,000 baht (£119) and leave the country after admitting to working despite entering Thailand on tourist visas, deputy national police chief, Surachate Hakparn, said.
Authorities began looking into the incident after a Thai reporter posted an image on social media of two members of the crew leaving the scene in north-eastern Thailand.
One CNN crew member was seen climbing over the low wall and fence around the compound, over police tape, with the other already outside.
CNN initially tweeted the crew had entered the premises when the police cordon had been removed from the centre and were told by three public health officials exiting the building that they could film inside.
“The team gathered footage inside the centre for around 15 minutes, then left,” CNN said in its tweet.
“During this time, the cordon had been set back in place, so the team needed to climb over the fence at the centre to leave.”
The tweet came in response to criticism from the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT), which said it was “dismayed” by CNN’s coverage and the decision to film inside the crime scene.
“This was unprofessional and a serious breach of journalistic ethics in crime reporting,” the FCCT said.
The Thai Journalists’ Association criticised CNN’s actions as “unethical” and “insensitive,” and called for an internal company investigation of the incident in addition to the official Thai probe.
In a later statement, CNN International’s executive vice president and general manager Mike McCarthy reiterated that his reporters sought permission to enter the building but the team “now understands that these officials were not authorised to grant this permission”, adding that it was “never their intention to contravene any rules”.
He said CNN had ceased broadcasting the report and had removed the video from its website.
“We deeply regret any distress or offence our report may have caused, and for any inconvenience to the police at such a distressing time for the country,” he said in the statement tweeted by CNN.
Five children survived the rampage, according to police, including a three-year-old who is thought to have escaped thanks to her face being covered by a blanket while she was fast asleep.
After the attack, the gunman, named as 34-year-old Panya Khamrap, went home and killed his wife and child before turning his weapon on himself.
Khamrap had been discharged over drug allegations and was facing trial on a drugs charge. It was not clear if he still used drugs. An autopsy report indicated he had not used them on the day of the attack, national police chief Damrongsak Kittipraphat said on Friday.
Additional reporting by agencies