The Thai government is reportedly in talks with Tehran to secure the freedom of its 23 hostages held in Gaza. Hebrew media reports said Qatar was also involved.
Numerous Thai citizens were killed and kidnapped during Hamas’s October 7 assault on southern Israeli communities. Farms in the Gaza periphery have long employed foreign workers, many of them from Thailand, for various agricultural tasks.
Thai citizens working in southern farms were treated no differently from Israelis during Hamas’s onslaught on October 7, with 32 killed by the terrorists and 23 abducted, according to Thai government figures. Some 1,400 people were killed — the majority of them civilians — and over 240 kidnapped during the Hamas onslaught that started the Israel-Hamas war.
Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said this week that his country’s hostages in Gaza are safe and will be freed soon, though he did not offer details on the negotiations with Hamas or who was mediating them.
Thavisin said a temporary ceasefire was necessary to arrange their release from the Strip. It is not clear if and when Israel will agree to such a pause in the fighting. Pressure from Washington for such pauses — to allow humanitarian activity throughout the territory — has been growing, but Israeli leaders have said any ceasefire must include the release of the hostages.
Channel 12 noted on Monday that the Thai government in recent days donated a sum of 3 million baht (some $85,000) to the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees, asking whether the donation was somehow tied to the negotiations. The Thai government has said it contributed the money in response to UNRWA’s general appeal for global aid to the Strip.
“With this donation, Thailand aspires to ease the suffering of Palestinians who are in desperate need of essential provisions such as food, water, energy, medical supplies, and suitable shelter in Gaza,” it said.
Channel 12 further reported that Iran is playing a central role in the negotiations to free the captured Thai nationals, and that the release could see the captives transferred to Egypt and then to Tehran, and only from there sent back to their country.
On Tuesday, Channel 12 showed a photograph of what it said was a Thai delegation, headed by the country’s deputy prime minister, meeting several days ago in Tehran with Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.
The Bangkok Post last week showed what it said were Thai negotiators meeting with Hamas officials in Tehran.
The network noted that such a deal, if it came to pass, could open the door for other countries whose citizens are held hostage by Hamas to turn to Iran as a potential interlocutor, and that this could pose a further challenge for Israel as it attempts to free the Israelis who make up the majority of those held by Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza.
Monday saw Israeli families of hostages mark 30 days since their loved ones were abducted with a somber rally at the Knesset in Jerusalem.