Boy Freed After 4-Hour Standoff in Thailand

A knife-wielding construction worker held a 9-year-old schoolboy hostage for four hours in Bangkok (search) Tuesday before police shot the man with rubber bullets and a crowd beat him severely. The boy was rescued unharmed.

Wantong Kota, a 45-year-old laborer who allegedly had taken drugs, grabbed the student and held a knife to his throat outside the boy's school in Bangkok's northern Ladprao district, demanding only that a car take him to a bus terminal.

Police negotiated with the man before shooting him several times in the back with rubber bullets, then dozens of bystanders surrounded and beat the suspect as he tried to flee.

Wantong, who was seriously injured in the melee, was taken by police to a hospital. Details about his injuries were not immediately available.

The suspect was charged with attempted murder, illegal detention and carrying a weapon in public. If found guilty, he faces up to 10 years in prison, police said.

The hostage drama attracted thousands of people, and police closed off at least one road in the area during the standoff.

Police said the incident reflected growing drug use in Thailand.

"The drug-crazed man taking the boy hostage has shown the return of drugs," police Lt. Gen. Krisada Phankhongchuen told reporters.

The government launched a high-profile war on drugs last year. More than 2,500 suspected dealers were killed in the bloody crackdown, prompting human rights groups to express concerns that police were carrying out extrajudicial killings.

Authorities said most of the suspects died because of drug gang infighting.