KHON KAEN - Natthawaree Mulkan walked through the airport arrival gates and straight into her mother's arms, both crying with joy, meeting for the first time after losing touch for nearly two months when she was taken hostage by Hamas militants on Oct 7.
"Thank you to everyone for worrying about us ... We’re safe now and we're really thankful,” Natthawaree said late on Thursday, with tears still in her eyes and her hands clasped together in a traditional Thai 'wai' greeting.
"I’m happy. Let’s go back home," she told her mother at an airport in Khon Kaen province in northeastern Thailand.
A relative tied holy threads on Natthawaree's wrist and on the wrist of her partner Boonthoom Phankhongwas in a Thai homecoming ritual.
The two were among the first 10 Thai hostages freed by Hamas during the first truce of the war in Gaza.
A total of 23 Thai hostages have been released with nine still in captivity.
A Red Cross bus and delegation arrive outside the Israeli Ofer military prison located between Ramallah and Beitunia in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, ahead of the release of Palestinians in exchange for Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza since Oct 7. (Photo: AFP)
Before the war, around 30,000 Thai labourers, mostly from the country's rural northeast, worked in Israel's agriculture sector, making them one of the largest migrant worker groups in the country.
So far, 9,000 Thais have been repatriated.
Natthawaree, 35 and a mother of two, was seen hugging her daughter before the family got into a van to go home.