Police rescue teachers held hostage in Thailand

Police in southern Thailand on Friday rescued two Buddhist teachers who were taken hostage by a mob demanding the release of two suspected Muslim insurgents arrested earlier. Both teachers were injured, one seriously, police said.

More than 200 villagers took the teachers hostage at their school at about 1 p.m., said police Col. Manote Anandtaritkul.

The mob surrounded the government primary school in Kujing Ruepa village in Narathiwat province's Rangae district and held two Buddhist female teachers captive in a classroom, Manote said.

Most residents in the area are Muslims.

More than 1,300 people have been killed in violence in the south since a separatist movement flared in January 2004.

Lt. Col. Wichien Yantarat, another police officer, said the crowd had demanded the release of two men _ Abdul Karim Matae, 23, and Muhamad Sapae-ing Muelee, 32, arrested earlier Friday on suspicion of killing police officers last year.

Police did not give details of the rescue, which took place at about 4 p.m.

Manote said a combined force of police and soldiers was searching the school and surrounding areas for the captors.

One of the teachers, Julin Kamphongmoon, was hospitalized with serious head injuries suffered when police stormed the school, while the other, Sirinart Thawornsuk, was stabbed in the hand, said reports on police radio.

The country's three southernmost provinces of Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani are the only Muslim-majority areas in Thailand , which is mostly Buddhist.

Southerners have long complained of mistreatment by authorities and discrimination, especially in jobs and education.

In more violence later Friday, police Lt. Paosi Yusoh, 39, was shot dead by an unidentified man on a motorcycle in Narathiwat's Sungai Padi district, reports the AP.

I.L.