Thai hostage release depends on Israel-Hamas ceasefire talks

Thai hostage release depends on Israel-Hamas ceasefire talks

Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, as seen from Ashkelon, in southern Israel, Oct 20, 2023. (Photo: Reuters)
Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, as seen from Ashkelon, in southern Israel, Oct 20, 2023. (Photo: Reuters)

The release of the 25 Thai workers held hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip depends on ongoing talks between Israel and Hamas for a ceasefire, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokeswoman Kanchana Patarachoke said on Friday.

Ms Kanchana said Israel and Hamas still lock horns over the conditions for a ceasefire and the release of hostages. While Hamas insists on a ceasefire first, Israel demands the unconditional release of hostages agreeing to a temporary cease in fighting. Moreover, there are still exchanges of fire between Hezbollah and Israel, she said.

On Thursday, a team of Thai negotiators who returned from Iran said that Hamas would release the Thai hostages if Israel accepts its call for a 72-hour ceasefire.

Ms Kanchana said the number of Thai workers killed since Hamas launched its large-scale attack on Oct 7 is 39, and their bodies have all been returned to Thailand.

Three injured workers are still receiving treatment in the hospital, with the Thai embassy in Tel Aviv ensuring they receive their rights and benefits under Israeli labour law, she added.

She said Vipawadee Wannachai, alias Phi Jaem, a Thai woman in Israel who had helped transport Thai workers out of the battle zone near the Gaza Strip to safety, had received an honorary pin from the Department of Consular Affairs.

About 20,000 Thai workers have decided to stay in Israel, with most working in agricultural farms in the Arava desert, which is considered safe from rocket fire, the spokeswoman said.

About 390 of them are still working near the Gaza Strip, as they have confidence in their employees. The Thai embassy has kept them under watch. If they change their minds and want to return home they can contact the embassy right away, Ms Kanchana said.

According to Ms Kanchana, the deputy foreign minister of Iran for political affairs is scheduled to visit Thailand on Nov 22-23, during which he would have an audience with Parliament president Wan Muhamad Nor Matha and Sihasak Phuangketkeow, a vice minister for foreign affairs.

She said Thailand is confident the visit by the Iranian diplomat would not affect the Thai-Isareli relations, saying that Thailand and Iran have had a good relation for over 400 years.

During the visit, the two sides are expected to raise for discussion the Israel-Hamas situation and the release of the Thai hostages, Ms Kanchana said.

On Friday, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT) issued a statement, urging an immediate ceasefire and unobstructed entry of humanitarian aid in Gaza.

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