Thai foreign minister fights back tears, welcomes Hamas release of Thai workers

Thai foreign minister fights back tears, welcomes Hamas release of Thai workers

 – Thai Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara held back tears when he met fellow Thais released to Israel by Hamas after seven weeks of captivity and said on Wednesday he hoped for freedom soon for the remaining 13 hostages.

Another two Thai workers were set free on Tuesday, bringing the total released to 23. With their arrival at Shamir Medical Center, the workers embraced one another. “We survived! We survived!” they cheered, and one was seen wiping away tears.

“We are not part of the conflict,” Mr. Parnpree said in a Reuters interview later on Wednesday after an emotional meeting with the workers on Tuesday. He said there were no conditions for their release.

Mr. Parnpree held talks with his counterparts in several Middle Eastern countries with Hamas contacts. He said they remain in contact with him and send him updates about the release of hostages even before the news breaks.

“I went around to speak to various countries who can connect with the Hamas group to explain that the Thai workers are innocent, they are not involved in politics, they are not part of anyone’s conflict, and they probably don’t even know how the situation came to be, who’s fighting with whom. They were there to earn a living,” he said in the interview.

Thailand says Palestinian Hamas gunmen from Gaza killed 39 Thais during an Oct. 7 rampage into Israel where around 30,000 Thai laborers had been working in the agriculture sector, one of Israel’s largest migrant worker groups.

The Thai foreign ministry said three Thais were being treated for wounds in hospital. On Wednesday night, four additional Thai hostages were released. Of the 32 taken hostage, nine remain in captivity. Mr. Parnpree said he had pinned his hopes on winning their release soon.

Without revealing which countries he was in direct contact with, the top Thai diplomat said upon hearing the news of the first group of hostages’ release on Friday, he was wondering why Thais were not among the list.

Shortly afterwards, he received the good news from his sources even before the news broke.

“I get updates sporadically and I get the alerts before anyone else – that 10 (workers) are being released, four have been released, three have been released and then two have been released,” said Mr. Parnpree. “I was able to gauge which country has the most accurate information and that they were really able to connect with Hamas.”

He added that diplomacy played the key role in Thais getting swiftly released from captivity compared to other nationalities who were among the hostages. In his perspective, it also plays a crucial role in places where there are high geopolitical conflicts.

On Monday, a Thai Muslim group that spoke directly with Hamas said its efforts were key to ensuring that Thai hostages were among the first to be released in Gaza during a temporary truce with Israeli forces.

“We were the sole party that spoke to Hamas since the beginning of the war to ask for the release of Thais,” Thai-Iran Alumni Association President Lerpong Syed told Reuters on Monday.

Israel says Hamas killed 1,200 people and took about 240 hostages back to Gaza on Oct. 7. More than 15,000 people have been killed in Israel’s military campaign, say Palestinian health authorities in Hamas-run Gaza. – Reuters