Two Buddhist Women Teachers Attacked in School in Southern Thailand

May 22, 2006

Source: Boston Globe

Wire Service: Reuters

On May 22, 2006 Reuters reported, "More than 100 government schools in Thailand's rebellious Muslim far south were closed on Monday after villagers abducted and beat two women Buddhist teachers, leaving one in a coma, officials said. The attack prompted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to call another urgent meeting with top security officials on how to protect teachers, a prime target in a two-year separatist insurgency in which more than 1,300 people have been killed.

The latest victim was a Buddhist employee of a state telephone firm in Pattani, one of three largely Muslim provinces near the border with Malaysia. Two men on a motorcycle shot the man dead and then set his body ablaze, police said.

'They are doing everything they can to drive minority Buddhists out,' said Tawat Sae-ham, head of a teachers' union in neighbouring Narathiwat province, where an angry mob took two Buddhist teachers from a school on Friday.

The teachers were dragged from the school and held hostage by masked men.

The attackers were demanding the release of two Muslim men detained by police and troops in the village a few hours earlier on suspicion of killing two Marines early this year.

The teachers were beaten after officials refused to release the two suspects. One of the teachers, newly graduated Juling Ponggunmul, is in a coma... 'Schools will be closed for a week since teachers are scared and they have no confidence their security will be protected,' Tawat said.

Teachers might have to come up with their own security plan because those introduced by the government -- including heavily guarded convoys to and from work -- had not been successful, he said.

Friday's incident was the fourth time this year teachers had been held hostage -- although none has been killed... The government of overwhelmingly Buddhist Thailand has tried many ways to end the violence and win the hearts and minds of the 1.8 million people in the far south, an independent Muslim Sultanate until annexed by Bangkok a century ago."