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17 Thai and one Filipino hostage are released from Gaza

Amidst the four-day ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza 14 Thai hostages and one Filipino hostage have been released by Hamas in exchange for the 39 Palestinians held captive by Israel since Saturday night, according to TIME. Three Thai hostages were released this evening, according to Times of Israel.

Ten Thai hostages were released on Friday. On Saturday night, Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin announced that four more Thai nationals were released. According to the Guardian, Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs disclosed that the 10 hostages were staying at the Shamir Medical Center, a hospital in Israel.

One Filipino hostage and 13 Israeli hostages were also released on Friday. Ferdinand Marcos, president of the Philippines, tweeted on X that he was “overjoyed” that Gelenior “Jimmy” Pacheco was released.

One Thai national was Santi Boonphrom, a Buriram province resident, whose wife, Kanyaporn Raektaisong, 35, rejoiced over his release.

“I want to hear my husband’s voice, saying that he’s boarding [a plane to return]. We will go to the airport to pick him up. I will make canned fish stir-fry, his favourite dish. I will do whatever to make him happy,” said Raektaisong, according to the Guardian.

Boonphrom’s mother, Nuanchan Chanjonm, 68, cried every night awaiting his safe return, according to the Guardian.

There are about 30,000 Thai nationals who work in Israel, namely in the agriculture industry. One Thai national, who was held captive, was Vetoon Phoome, 33, a worker on a potato and pomegranate farm near Gaza.

While 7,000 nationals have returned to Thailand, many have stayed despite the conditions because their work in Israel offers higher pay. The Thai government has offered to provide compensation in order to accommodate the return of more Thai nationals by offering 50,000 baht (1,400 USD) in addition to soft loans. According to the Thailand Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 32 Thai nationals have died and 19 have been wounded since October 7.

The agreement to the release the Thai hostages was made separately by Bangkok with assistance from other groups like the governments of Qatar, Israel, Egypt, Iran, Malaysia and the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross), according to a tweet by Thailand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Parnpree Bahiddha-nukara thanking them on X, formerly known as Twitter

The release has been negotiated for weeks between the Thai government and officials from other countries like Qatar and Egypt. On Oct. 26, Thai officials including politician, Areepen Uttarasin, met with Hamas officials for two hours in Iran to discuss the situation of the Thai hostages.

Among the 200 people held captive by Hamas since Oct. 7, at least 30 were Thai nationals, which is the largest group of people from a single country.

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