That’s My Son! Thai Family Overjoyed as Second Group of Hostages Freed
13:38 JST, November 26, 2023
BANGKOK (Reuters) – The mother of a Thai hostage freed from Gaza late on Saturday said she was indescribably happy her son was among the four most recent Thai nationals confirmed as freed from Hamas captivity.
“My granddaughter called me at 5 a.m. saying my son was among the hostages released and I didn’t really believe it,” Thongkoon Onkaew told Reuters by phone on Sunday. “Then she sent me the photo and I was like, ‘That’s my son! My son!'”
Thirteen Israelis and four Thai nationals, freed in a second round of releases by the Palestinian militant group, arrived in Israel on Sunday as part of what is meant to be a four-day truce in the war to allow daily exchanges of hostages held by Hamas for Palestinians in Israeli jails.
Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said the Thais in the latest release were in good health and eager to contact their families.
“Everybody is safe, on the whole in good mental health and are able to speak normally,” he posted on social media platform X.
A first group of 10 Thai hostages were on freed Friday along with 13 Israelis, in return 39 Palestinians from Israel’s prisons.
More than 30,000 Thai nationals work in Israel, mostly as farm workers, making up one of the largest migrant worker groups in the country.
Thongkoon said her son, 26-year-old Natthaporn Onkaew, worked in agriculture and was the family’s sole breadwinner, sending remittances each month to support his family, including school fees for his 12-year-old sister.
She said she had identified him in a photo released by Hamas, showing him and several other people in the back of a van, dressed in a green shirt and smiling and waving at the camera.
“I’m so happy, I’m so glad, I can’t describe my feeling at all,” she said.
Thailand’s foreign ministry estimated 18 Thai nationals remained captive after Israel told it the number abducted had increased by two from the previous tally.
“The Thai government will continue to make every effort towards the safe release and return of those remaining Thai nationals,” the ministry said in a statement.
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