(CTN News) – After over 50 days in captivity at Hamas, 17 Thai hostages are finally about to go back home.
The arrangement that has resulted in the release of 70 Israeli women and children is independent from the release of these individuals.
With the truce prolongation, the remaining nine Thai captives’ release has again become a realistic possibility.
The kidnapped foreign workers were almost entirely Thai nationals. Israel uses some 30,000 of them as agricultural laborers, making them a sizable migratory population.
Of the 1,200 individuals killed by Hamas in their attack on Israel on October 7th, 39 were Thai nationals.
A medical evaluation has kept six Thai prisoners in Israel even after their release two days ago. Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara, the Thai foreign minister, accompanies the other released individuals as they return home. They are expected to return to Bangkok early Thursday evening, much to the delight of several of their relatives waiting for them.
In order to meet their brother Buddee Saengbun when he arrived in Bangkok, Chanapa and Sirirat Bupasiri departed their village in the dead of night.
Chanapa informed the BBC, “We haven’t had any sleep,” as she waited outside Bangkok International Airport. She added that after Buddee’s release last week, they saw him on TV and knew he was okay.
What had transpired to my brother remained a mystery to us. We exhausted all possible avenues, including Facebook groups and the Department of employment, but unfortunately, no one had heard from us about our loved ones.
Asked what she planned to do upon seeing her brother again, she smiled tearfully. Tight embraces. “Tears and hugs,” she remarked. “A total of thirty-one days. We’ve been keeping track of each day.
After fielding questions from the media at a short press conference, the workers will head home. Most of them came from northeastern Thailand, an area known for its rice cultivation and its high rate of youth migration in quest of economic opportunity.
Many families are waiting at home for their elderly parents because they either cannot afford the long flight to Bangkok or cannot make the journey.
I am elated. “I am eagerly anticipating her return,” says Bunyarin Srichan, whose daughter Nattawaree “Yo” Mulka was the sole female Thai captive abducted by Hamas.
She promises a decadent feast in honor of the occasion, including garlic-infused fried pork and “the best sticky rice we’ve got.” She also intends to perform a little homecoming ceremony, which Thais commonly believe to reawaken a spirit that has been scared away by a terrifying event.
Yo was rescued along with her partner, whom she had met while working in Israel.
The mother of Yo’s two children, Bunyarin, revealed that her daughter had been contacting Bunyarin three times daily before the kidnapping on October 7. Additionally, she would send her mother 25,000 Thai baht ($715; £560) each month, which was half of her pay.
Many workers take out loans to travel to Israel to help support their families and pay off debt. They then send their savings back home. The family’s only earner is 27-year-old Natthaporn Onkaew, who was released on Saturday.
About $800 to $1,000 (£630 to£800) would go home every month when he began working in Israel two years ago.
Thawatchai Onkaew, the son’s father, spoke to BBC Thai, expressing his happiness at his son’s return. He went on to say that his son had been phoning home daily from the hospital since being released.
His family is preparing his favorite raw beef salad in anticipation of his return and planning a party to celebrate.
According to Mr. Thawatchai, his son is “still very scared” and has no plans to return to Israel for employment.
The number of Thai nationals repatriated since the attack on October 7th is around 8,500. Some, however, have returned to Israel, as the BBC has learned, most likely as a result of mounting debt and unemployment in their home country.
In the past, several have spoken to BBC Thai about the horrific working conditions they endured in Israel, including overwork, underpayment, and living in filthy surroundings.
The Gaza health ministry, which Hamas operates, reports that more than 14,500 people have been killed in the retaliatory bombing by Israel since 7 October.
In exchange for 210 Palestinian detainees, including numerous women and teenagers, imprisoned in Israeli prisons, Hamas released 102 of the 240 hostages as part of a negotiated ceasefire that had persisted for six days.
The ceasefire has been prolonged by one day from its original expiration date on Thursday.
Since Nattapong Pinta, Narissara Chanthasang’s husband, is still a captive of Hamas, this has provided her with new optimism.
“I felt like my heart was being squeezed when I learned that he hadn’t been freed yet,” stated the woman. Upon his return, I shall most certainly make my way to the airport. I shall overcome any obstacle.