(CTN News) – The foreign ministry of Thailand announced on Saturday that despite a pact reached during the first truce of a seven-week battle, Palestinian militant group Hamas is still holding 20 Thai nationals, despite having released 10 from Gaza.
The ministry announced in a statement that the deal, which was struck separately from Friday’s hostage exchange for Palestinians from Israeli jails, would allow the freed hostages to return home after 48 hours in the hospital.
The ministry did note that four of the Thais released on Friday were not previously proven to be in captivity by Israel, and that there are an estimated 20 Thai nationals who remain abducted.
“We sincerely hope the remaining hostages will be treated humanely and released safely as soon as possible.”
Photos from the ministry showed the group meeting with Israeli medics at a medical center; among those released was the sole Thai woman reported to be imprisoned by Hamas.
According to an individual familiar with the negotiations, the release had nothing to do with the two-track process of talks between Egypt and Qatar and Hamas, which was independent from the truce agreement with Israel.
Egypt, Iran, Israel, Malaysia, Qatar, and the International Committee of the Red Cross were among the several entities acknowledged by the ministry for their “immense efforts” that resulted in the release.
Twelve Thais were reportedly released earlier.
A substantial number of Thai people, around 30,000 to be exact, work as migrant workers in Israel, mostly in the agricultural sector.
Wichai Kalapat was among those set free on Friday; his girlfriend informed the BBC that she had seen him alive in a vehicle transporting border prisoners.
When the attacks on October 7th occurred, she initially mourned his death on social media because she thought he was one of at least 30 Thai nationals slain.
Nutthawaree Munkan, a mother and factory worker from a remote, destitute district that many people leave for opportunities abroad, was one of the only Thai women to be held in this group.
Reuters spoke with Thongkoon Onkaew, who said, “I’m waiting for good news.” She went on to say that her son, Natthaporn Onkaew, a 26-year-old farm laborer, was not released with the initial group.
According to a report Friday, nearly two dozen Thai nationals kidnapped by Hamas in Gaza may be released as part of a hostage swap agreement between Israel and the terror group.
Foreign Affairs Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara stated that the release of 23 Thai workers held prisoner by Hamas gunmen in Gaza is imminent, but this has not been formally confirmed.
Thailand’s foreign ministry has been holding separate talks to repatriate some of its nationals believed seized by Hamas during the terror group’s horrific rampage through southern Israel on October 7, which murdered 1,200 people and abducted 240 others, including 32 Thai laborers.
On Friday, Hamas plans to release 13 women and children in return for Palestinians detained in Israeli jails, as part of a deal that will pause the fighting for several days and result in the release of 50 hostages and 150 Palestinian inmates.
According to an alleged Egyptian source reported in the pan-Arab news site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on Thursday, Hamas is also expected to release 23 Thai hostages as a result of Iranian mediation between the Palestinian terror group and Bangkok.
Iran has given Bangkok with information on the health of the Thai abductees who are likely to be released. Bangkok claims that 26 of its people were kidnapped on October 7.
The agreement is distinct from the Qatar-mediated interim truce between Israel and Hamas, which is slated to take effect Friday at 7 a.m.
Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said on Wednesday that he hoped a break in the fighting would allow the Thai prisoners to escape Gaza safely.
Hamas Has Killed 32 Thai Nationals
Last week, a member of Thailand’s hostage-release negotiation team stated that Hamas had assured his country that 25 of its nationals taken captive by the Palestinian terror group were “safe,” and would be released in the coming days.
When the Hamas attack occurred last month, tens of thousands of Thai nationals were working in Israel. Many were working as field hands in agricultural areas near the Gaza border, making them vulnerable to terrorist fire. According to Thailand’s foreign ministry, the massacres killed at least 32 Thai citizens.
Thailand’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Friday praising Israel and Hamas on reaching an agreement on a cease-fire for humanitarian aid and the release of hostages, as demanded by the UN Security Council.
Thailand expects that this favorable trend would continue, eventually leading to the liberation of all hostages, including Thai citizens, according to the statement.
According to a source, approximately 23 Thai hostages are anticipated to be released on Friday, with more expected to be released throughout the four-day ceasefire.
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has closely observed the situation in the Middle East, according to government spokesman Chai Wacharonke, and has directed all relevant authorities to use all means and channels to enable the Thai hostages be freed safely as soon as possible.