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Thai labourers held in Gaza return home, mourn fellow workers

November 30, 2023 at 11:17 am

Released Thai hostages arrive to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand on November 30, 2023 [Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images]

When the first group of Thai nationals held as prisoners of war in Gaza arrived at a Bangkok airport, they asked for a moment of silence to mourn the Thai labourers who were killed, Reuters reports.

“I’m saddened that my 39 fellow workers who died and would like everybody to take a moment to mourn their loss,” the group’s representative, Uthai Saengnuan, told reporters today.

On 7 October, 39 Thais were killed and 32 were taken as prisoners of war, according to the Thai government.

The first group of 17 returned yesterday from a total of 23 who have been released in Gaza, with nine still being held.

“I would like to thank the Israeli and Thai authorities who helped us … and hope that the others will come back,” he said.

Before the war, around 30,000 Thai labourers worked in the agriculture sector, making the group one of Israel’s largest migrant worker groups.

So far, 9,000 Thais have been repatriated.

“All Thais were worried about you,” Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin told the returnees via a video call as they gathered for the press conference at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Thai migrant workers in Israel come mainly from the Southeast Asian nation’s rural northeast, seeking higher pay to send home to their families.

Family members waited to greet their relatives at the airport.

“The support of friends and allies helped secure the release of Thai hostages,” Foreign Minister Pranpree Bahiddha-Nukara told reporters, adding that the government would continue its efforts in securing the release of those who remain captive.

READ: Israel releases 30 Palestinians after 10 Israelis and two foreigners released by Hamas

Pranpree said he held talks with his counterparts in several Middle Eastern countries with Hamas contacts. He was previously in Cairo and Doha for talks.

A Thai Muslim group that held direct talks with Hamas said their efforts were crucial in securing the early release of Thais held in gaza. On the first day of the ceasefire, ten Thai prisoners of war were released without condition.

Video footage of the release of Thai prisoners of war yesterday showed them hugging the Palestinian resistance members as they were transported to Red Cross vehicles and returned to Israel.