Thai hostages: Relief for woman who feared boyfriend dead in Hamas attack

  • Tanyarat Toxonol
  • BBC News

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Kittiya Thuengsaeng recognizes Vichai Kalapat in TV footage of Thai hostage release

A woman who believed her boyfriend was killed in the October 7 attack on Israel has spoken of her joy at realizing they will soon be reunited.

Kitia Tuengsang told the BBC that she recognized the Vichai riot in television footage of the 10 Thai hostages freed from Gaza on Friday.

Wichai was feared to be among the Thai citizens killed in the Hamas attack.

She said it was confirmed only five days ago that her boyfriend was among the arrested foreigners.

Two days after the October 7 attack, the devastating news was delivered that Kittia’s boyfriend of three years was believed to be among the group that killed at least 30 Thai nationals.

When she returned from Israel, where she had been traveling for work, she posted messages on social media expressing grief for the man she planned to marry next year.

However, when the official list of the dead was published, Vichai’s name was not on it.

After an agonizing wait for information, Kitia found out last week that he was one of 26 Thai nationals held hostage in Gaza.

“I’m very happy because I was afraid he wouldn’t be among those released,” he told the BBC after seeing him alive in a car transporting hostages from the border to an Israeli hospital.

“I want him to recover from any mental condition first and then he can return to Thailand.

“Now, I can wait for him, I’ve waited so long, and wait a little longer.”

Thai nationals have been disproportionately affected, with about 30,000 people moving to Israel for work, primarily in the agricultural sector.

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Kitia told the BBC she thought her boyfriend was among the dead

Among them were Thai nationals Boonthom Bangkong, 39, and his girlfriend Nathaveri Mulagan, who were released by Hamas on Friday.

Boonthom’s family told BBC Mother that he had been working in Israel for five years when he was abducted, was the family’s breadwinner and regularly sent money to Thailand.

His sister Urai Chandasard told BBC Mother that the family had been told of the release by Boonthom’s son-in-law, who still works on a farm in Israel, and that they were “overjoyed”.

“Our family has been suffering for over a month, but we didn’t think he was dead, we were sure he was [was] Still alive,” she said.

Looking at a photo released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, she said she thought her brother looked “better than expected” even though he appeared to have lost weight.

Urai is not sure if he and his girlfriend will return home or stay in Israel. Both of them are undergoing treatment at Shamir Medical Center in Israel.

Other families anxiously await news of whether their loved ones were among those released Friday.

Thongkoon Onkew, the mother of 26-year-old Thai farmer Nattaborn Onkew, said she last spoke to her son on the morning of October 7 when he had planned to play soccer with friends.

He said: “I want my son to be one of the first to be freed. It has been a painful month without good news.

“I want my son and the other Thai hostages to be safe, and I thank all the authorities who negotiated the release of the Thai nationals.”

Vanitha Marsa, wife of Anucha Ange, 28, said: “I have to call the local representative to see the news. Now I am bombarded with news.

“If my husband was one of them, I would be very happy.”

Thailand’s Prime Minister Shreta Thawisin initially said 12 people had been released, but an official from the Qatari government – which mediates between Israel and Hamas – later put the number at 10.

The release of the Thai nationals was part of a deal that expected the release of 50 Israeli hostages from Gaza during a temporary four-day pause in the fighting.

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See: Freed hostages helped out by ambulances

Thirteen Israeli citizens – all women and children – and a Filipino national were among the first group of hostages to be freed.

Israel has released 39 Palestinian prisoners as part of the deal.

Thailand’s foreign ministry said the freed citizens would be kept under medical observation without access to relatives for 48 hours after being transferred to an Israeli hospital.

In a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, it said that it sends its heartfelt congratulations to the freed Thai nationals and their families and will do everything possible to bring them back to Thailand as soon as possible.

Additional report by Dosapol Chaysamridpol and Jiraborn Srisam

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