Thai ministers holds direct talks with Hamas to secure release of nationals in Gaza

Thai politicians held direct talks with Hamas in Iran to secure the release of 23 nationals taken hostage during their attack on Israel.

Thai politician Areepen Uttarasin said he conducted “in-person” talks with the militant group last week, on 26 October.

Hamas officials told the minister that Thai hostages were safe and well-looked after, Mr Areepen said on Friday.

Earlier, the country’s foreign ministry said that Thai officials are in touch with Iran and other regional government to secure the release of its nationals.

Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara, Thailand‘s top diplomat who was in the Middle East earlier this week, said Iran has promised to help with negotiations.

Of the more than 1,400 people Israel says were killed in the rampage on 7 October, at least 32 were Thai nationals. Qatar, Iran and Egypt agreed to send Thailand‘s request to free the hostages to Hamas immediately, Thailand‘s foreign ministry said.

“I wanted them to convey that to Hamas, because I’m worried Hamas doesn’t know that they are just agriculture workers,” Mr Pranpree told a press conference.

When Hamas militants stormed Israeli villages and towns along the border of the blockaded Gaza Strip last month, at least 32 Thai migrant agricultural workers shared the fate of hundreds of Israelis who were killed, kidnapped or forced to run for their lives.

Among those kidnapped was Natthaporn Onkeaw. Working in the country since 2021, the 26-year-old was the sole breadwinner of his family living in a poor rural area in northeastern Thailand near the border with Laos.

He was one of the few Thai captives pictured in a photo released by Hamas whose names were later confirmed by the Thai Labor Ministry. His mother, 47-year-old Thongkun Onkeaw, said she had not heard from him since he was taken, and no officials have given her or her husband any updates.

“I can only pray: Please help my son stay safe,” she told the Associated Press.

Earlier, a video of one man, who was purported to be a Thai migrant worker being dragged away in a chokehold by a militant, was been widely circulated on social media. Identified as 26-year-old Kong Saleo by his wife, Suntree Saelee, he was allegedly taken from an avocado orchard when Hamas militants raided the worker’s camp.

“When I saw the picture and the clip, I knew it was him,” Ms Suntree was quoted as saying in the Bangkok Post. “I am concerned for his safety. Please help him.”

Farm laborers from Thailand and elsewhere in Southeast Asia seek work in more developed countries where there is a shortage of semi-skilled labor — at wages considerably higher than what they earn at home.

About 30,000 Thai labourers work in Israel, mainly in the farm sector, and 7,200 of those have been repatriated since the war, according to the foreign ministry.

Additional reporting from the agencies

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