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Thai official meets with Hamas in Iran to seek hostage release

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Muslim Thai officials have reported that they met with Hamas in Iran as they bid to secure the release of hostages being held in Gaza by the Palestinian group.

Thai politician Areepen Uttarasin said on Friday that he held “direct talks” with Hamas officials in Iran to discuss the issue. The talks took place in the Iranian capital, Tehran, on October 26 and lasted two hours, he reported.

“I told them that I am here not to negotiate but simply to ask for their release,” said Areepen, who declined to name the Hamas officials he met with.

The Hamas officials told the lawmaker that the Thai captives were safe and well looked after. But they did not agree to a date for the release of the captives, he added, saying they were “waiting for the right time”.

At least 23 Thai nationals were among more than 240 people kidnapped by Hamas during the group’s unprecedented attacks on Israel on October 7. Of the more than 1,405 people Israel says were killed in the attacks, at least 32 were Thai.

Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin spoke to Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu on the phone on Wednesday and received assurances that Israel is making every effort to free all of the captives, including Thai nationals. Netanyahu also pledged to ensure care for all foreign nationals.

However, according to local media, the Thai government is planning a mass evacuation of its nationals from Israel this week, fearing the escalating situation on the ground.

Israel ranks third behind South Korea and Taiwan for registered Thai migrant workers and about 30,000 Thai labourers work in Israel, mostly in the agriculture sector.

Earlier, Thailand’s Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara said Qatar, Iran and Egypt had agreed to send Thailand’s request to free the hostages to Hamas immediately.

“I wanted them to convey that to Hamas because I’m worried Hamas doesn’t know that they are just agriculture workers,” Parnpree told a press conference.

On the “Thai labourers in Israel” Facebook page, desperate relatives of the captives have listed the home towns they hail from which include some of the poorest places in Thailand, like Kalasin, Surin and Sisaket.

Despite the dangers, some Thais in the group also said that opportunity must come before their security. One worker said he would go back [to Israel], no matter how bad the security situation gets.

In the rush of comments that followed, another post summarised the feelings of many Thai overseas workers: “Poverty is scarier.”

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