Thailand hopes its hostages in Gaza will be the next to be freed. | ET REALITY

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Thailand’s Foreign Minister said Tuesday that officials who had met in Qatar and Egypt indicated that Thai hostages held by Hamas and other armed groups would be released next because they had nothing to do with the war.

Thai officials working to secure the release of 24 Thai farm workers have seen photographs of the hostages who were kidnapped on October 7 in southern Israel, Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara said.

Thai citizens make up the second largest group of the approximately 240 people taken hostage, after the Israelis.

Thailand has been trying to reach Hamas through proxy governments in Iran, Qatar, Egypt and Malaysia. Officials in Malaysia, which hosts representatives linked to Hamas and does not maintain diplomatic relations with Israel, have told their counterparts in Thailand that the Thai hostages are alive and that the head of the Thai army has seen photographs of the captives, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin from Thailand. she said Monday.

Srettha did not specify how many hostages appeared in the photographs. But she said she was hopeful that the Thais would be freed as soon as there was a pause in the Israeli bombing of Gaza.

Parnpree traveled to the Middle East last week to work to secure his release. On Tuesday he said he had also seen photographs of hostages in “the Gaza area,” but they were blurry and he could not be sure if the people were Thai.

Few images of the captive hostages have been seen publicly since the kidnappings, apart from two videos that Hamas released. Last month, photographs posted on social media showed a group of Thai hostages, supposedly in Gaza, sitting cross-legged while a masked man pointed an assault rifle at them. It was unclear whether the photos Parnpree said he saw were different from those previously released.

In total, four hostages were freed from Gaza and one was rescued by Israeli forces.

The hostages in the photographs seen by Parnpree had black hair, he said, and were sitting cross-legged in a room with people of other nationalities and seemed “upbeat.” They were obviously not tied up, she said.

Qatari and Egyptian officials told him that Thais in Gaza are being held in two or three separate groups, and that some are being held by armed groups other than Hamas.

To be freed, the Thais would need to be rounded up to cross to safety in Egypt, Parnpree said. The Egyptian government is willing to receive the hostages at the Rafah border crossing, he said.

About 30,000 Thais were working on farms in Israel when Hamas militants crossed the border from Gaza last month. At least 34 people were killed in the terrorist attacks, the Thai Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday. Israelis who have been helping the traumatized Thai community estimate that 80 Thais were killed, taken hostage or missing and presumed dead.

Muslim negotiators from Thailand traveled to Tehran late last month to meet with Iranian and Hamas officials who promised to work on the hostages’ release, one of the negotiators said. About 10 percent of Thailand’s predominantly Buddhist population is Muslim. Most Thai farm workers in Israel are Buddhists from the country’s impoverished northeast.

On Tuesday, Watsana Yojampa, the mother of Anucha Angkaew, one of the alleged Thai hostages whose photo during his confinement was posted on social media last month, said she had not had any communication with Thai or Israeli government officials about the status of his son.

Still, after hearing the Thai news about the photos and negotiations, Ms. Watsana’s mood improved, she said.

“Now I have hope,” Watsana said. “I feel lighter.”

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