- Written by Thanyarat Dokson
- BBC News
A woman who believed her boyfriend had been killed in the October 7 attack on Israel spoke of her happiness when she realized they would soon be reunited.
Kitia Tuengsaeng told the BBC she recognized Wichai Kalapat in television images of the 10 Thai hostages who were released from Gaza on Friday.
Wichai is feared to be among the Thai citizens killed in the Hamas raid.
She said confirmation that her boyfriend was among the detained foreign nationals came only five days ago.
Two days after the October 7 attack, Kitia received the devastating news that her boyfriend of three years was believed to be among a group of at least 30 Thai nationals killed.
She posted messages on social media mourning the man she planned to marry next year when he returned from Israel, where he traveled for work.
However, when the official list of the dead was published, Weichai’s name was not on it.
After an agonizing wait for information, Kitia discovered last week that he was among 26 Thai nationals being held hostage inside Gaza.
“I am very happy because I was afraid he would not be among those released,” she told the BBC after seeing him alive in a car carrying hostages from the border to an Israeli hospital.
“I want him to recover from whatever mental condition he may have first, then he can return to Thailand.
“For now, I can wait for him. I’ve been waiting for him for a long time, I can wait a little longer.”
Thai citizens were disproportionately affected, with about 30,000 people traveling to Israel for work, primarily in the agricultural sector.
Other families are nervously awaiting news to find out whether their loved ones are among those released on Friday.
Thongkun Unkaew, the mother of Nattaporn Unkaew, a 26-year-old Thai farmer, said the last time she spoke to her son was on the morning of October 7, when he was planning to play soccer with friends.
“I hope my son will be one of the first to be released,” she said. “It has been a painful month and there has been no good news.”
“I hope that my son and the other Thai hostages are safe, and I thank all authorities for their efforts in negotiating the release of the Thai nationals.”
“I need to contact the local representative to check the news,” said Wanida Marsa, wife of Anucha Angkayo, 28. “I am now being bombarded with messages.
“If my husband was one of them, I would be very happy.”
Thai Prime Minister Sritha Thavisin initially said 12 people had been released, but an official from the Qatari government – which mediates between Israel and Hamas – later said the number was 10.
The release of the Thai nationals is separate from the agreement, which is expected to see the release of 50 Israeli hostages from Gaza during a temporary four-day cessation of fighting.
Thirteen Israeli citizens – all women and children – and a Filipino national were among the first group of hostages to be released.
Israel released 39 Palestinian detainees under the agreement.
The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that its released citizens will be placed under medical supervision without being allowed to contact their relatives for 48 hours after they are transferred to an Israeli hospital.
A statement issued by the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it sent its heartfelt congratulations to the released Thai citizens and their families, and would do everything in its power to return them to their homeland, Thailand, quickly.
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