Thai Buddhist teacher dies after nearly 8 months in coma from mob attack

The Associated Press, January 8, 2007

BANGKOK, Thailand -- A Buddhist teacher who was savagely beaten by a mob of Muslim villagers in restive southern Thailand last year died Monday after spending almost eight months in a coma, her doctor said.

Juling Kamphongmoon, an elementary school art teacher, was clubbed May 19 by a village mob until her skull shattered after being taken hostage in her classroom in Narathiwat province.

The brutal beating shocked Thailand and became a glaring example of tensions between Buddhists and Muslims in the country's three restive southern provinces where more than 1,900 people have been killed since an Islamic separatist movement flared in January 2004.

"We did everything we could have to save her," said Dr. Sumet Phirawut, the director of the Prince of Songkhla Hospital, where he said the teacher succumbed to a severe lung infection and low blood pressure.

Juling, along with another Buddhist teacher, was attacked and taken hostage by about 200 villagers angered by the arrest of two suspected Muslim rebels. The other teacher suffered injuries but survived the attack.