A Thai woman, who had thought her boyfriend had been killed in the 7 October attack on Israel, expressed her happiness upon discovering they would soon be together again.
Kittiya Thuengsaeng mentioned that she identified her boyfriend Wichai Kalapat among the ten Thai hostages shown in television broadcasts, who were released from Gaza on Friday.
Wichai was initially believed to be a casualty in the Hamas raid. However, five days ago, it was confirmed that he was among the detained foreign nationals.
Two days after the attack, Kittiya received news that her boyfriend of three years was presumably among at least 30 Thai nationals killed.
She mourned on social media, anticipating their marriage next year, after his return from a work trip in Israel. Wichai’s absence from the official death list provided a glimmer of hope.
After a tense wait, Kittiya found out last week he was one of 26 Thai hostages in Gaza. Upon seeing him alive, being transported to an Israeli hospital, she told the BBC: “I’m so happy because I feared he wouldn’t be among those released.”
“I want him to heal from any mental condition he may have first, then he can return to Thailand. Right now, I can wait for him. I’ve been waiting for so long, I can wait a little longer.”
Thai citizens were significantly affected, as approximately 30,000 had journeyed to Israel for employment, mainly in the agricultural field. Other families are anxiously awaiting news about their loved ones’ release.
Thongkoon Onkaew, mother of Natthaporn Onkaew, a 26-year-old Thai farmer, last spoke to him on 7 October, anticipating his football game.
She expressed: “I wish my son is one of the first being released. It has been a painful month with no good news. I wish my son and other Thai hostages are safe, I thank all the authorities for the effort negotiating the release of Thai nationals.”
Wanida Maarsa, wife of Anucha Angkaew, 28, stated: “I need to call the local representative for news updates. I’m overwhelmed with messages, hoping my husband is among those released.”
Initially, Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin reported that 12 individuals were released, but a representative from the Qatari government, which acted as a mediator between Israel and Hamas, corrected the figure to 10.
The release of Thai nationals is distinct from an expected deal to free 50 Israeli hostages from Gaza during a brief ceasefire.
The first group of freed hostages included 13 Israeli citizens, women and children, and a Filipino. Israel has freed 39 Palestinian detainees under the deal.
Thailand’s foreign ministry stated its released citizens would undergo medical observation, isolated from family for 48 hours, at an Israeli hospital.
The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs congratulated the released Thais and their families, pledging swift repatriation.