Slim chances of survival for teacher
Published on May 21, 2006 -
Doctor tells Thais to pray for victim of mob attack
Doctors said yesterday only a miracle could save the life of elementary schoolteacher Juling Pangamoon, 24, in a coma since she and a colleague were held hostage by an angry mob in their own village school in Narathiwat, locked in a room, then beaten until they pleaded for their lives.
Juling was in an intensive-care unit for the second day. Her parents Soon and Khamee flew from Lampang to be at her bedside.
The hospital has psychiatrists standing by to counsel them in case she does not pull through.
The attack took place as some 300 villagers surrounded the school to demand the release of two suspected Muslim rebels arrested earlier the same day in connection with the killing of two marines last year.
"There is only a slim chance that she will survive. I would urge Thais throughout the country to pray for a miracle for her," Dr Sumet Phirawut told a news conference.
Meanwhile friends and family are praying for her recovery amid growing concern as she shows no sign of improvement.
Words of sympathy and encouragement from friends, family and people all over the country poured in yesterday.
In Chiang Rai, friends and family gathered around Juling's picture, praying for her health while a village shaman called on spirits to intervene on her behalf.
Unable to hold back their tears, Soon and Khamee said their hope for a quick recovery was slowly fading.
The couple expressed shock and sadness at the incident and thanks to the doctors. Fellow teachers thronged the hospital.
Juling and Sirinart Thavornsuk, 30 - both teachers at the Kuching Reupoh elementary school - were taken hostage by villagers demanding the release of two of their number arrested earlier in the day.
The village headman and his assistants, including a village defence volunteer, negotiated more than two hours with the captors for the women's release but decided to break into the small room where they were being kept when they heard Sirinart shouting for help.
The headman rushed Juling and Sirinart to the nearby hospital as the security forces made their way to the crime scene, hampered by tree trunks and spikes on the road.
Their slow response met with stiff criticism, especially from the teachers and from politicians of the opposition Democrat Party, who accused policy-makers of complacency.
Sa-nguan Inthrak, secretary-general of the Narathiwat Teachers' Federation, said Friday's incident had not been the first time that local villagers in this restive region had held teachers hostage, saying the authorities had had plenty of lessons.
He was referring to incidents at an elementary school in Narathiwat's Ai Ba Thu village and at Ban Joh Koh School in Joh I Rong district, where teachers were held hostage for hours in return for the release of arrested suspects.
Sa-nguan said the police had not warned teachers or village authorities to be prepared for such an incident.
He said they had come to arrest the two suspects and just left without thinking about the consequences.
Interior Minister Kongsak Wantana reluctantly admitted that the security officers had been slow to act but dismissed suggestions that they did not have a contingency plan to deal with such incidents.
Fourth Army chief Maj-General Ongkorn Thongprasom said his forces would adopt a strategy in which a unit would be left behind to reassure the villagers that the arrested individuals would be treated in accordance with the law.
Ongkorn, together with Ninth Police Region commissioner Lt-General Adul Saengsingkoew and more than 100 other officers, inspected Kuching Reupoh yesterday but was shunned by residents.
Relations between the Muslim-majority region and government agencies, particularly the police and Army, are at one of their lowest ebbs during the insurgency, which has claimed more than 1,200 lives since January 2004.