Thailand’s foreign minister broke down in tears when he met Thais released to Israel by Hamas after seven weeks of captivity, and said he hoped for freedom soon for the remaining hostages from his country.
Four Thai workers were released late on Wednesday, bringing the total released to 23.
Another two were set free on Tuesday and taken to Shamir Medical Center, where they embraced one another on arrival. “We survived! We survived!” they cheered, and one was seen wiping away tears.
“We are no one’s enemy,” foreign minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara said in a Reuters interview. He said there were no conditions for their release.
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 a rampage on 7 October into Israel where about 30,000 Thai labourers 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. Of the 32 taken hostage, 13 remain in captivity. He said he had pinned his hopes on winning their release soon.
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,” the 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 7 October. More than 15,000 people have been killed in Israel’s military campaign, say Palestinian health authorities in Hamas-run Gaza.
Thailand’s population of 70 million are predominantly Buddhist and have largely co-existed peacefully with its Muslim minority, although a long-running separatist insurgency in the south periodically flares into violence.