Thai mother danced with joy after daughter released from Gaza

By Napat Wesshasartar

BAN KHOK SAMRAN (Reuters) – When Natthawaree Mulkan’s mother saw that her daughter was among the Thai hostages released by Hamas, she was so happy she danced with her 8-year-old granddaughter outside their home in northeastern Thailand.

“I was elated … I came out and danced,” Bunyarin Srijan, 56, said pointing to her patio.

Natthawaree, a mother of two, was one of 10 Thai hostages freed by Hamas during the first truce of a seven-week-old war that started with the Palestinian militant group’s Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel.

She was the only Thai female abducted.

Her mother lost touch with her after the attack and then stopped following reports, dreading bad news.

“During that hopeless period I didn’t watch the news for half a month,” Bunyarin recounts alone in her living room.

“I was afraid of seeing my daughter lying dead.”

Some 30,000 Thai labourers, mainly from the country’s impoverished northeast, work in the Israeli agriculture sector, one of its largest groups of migrant workers.

Natthawaree is seen in a photograph from the Thai foreign ministry in a clinic, smiling with her hands clasped in a traditional ‘wai.’

Bunyarin said her daughter had planned to marry her boyfriend, Boonthom Phankhong, who was also abducted by Hamas and released on Friday.

“After she’s back, I’m going to take her to the temple to observe religious rites,” she said, wiping away tears.

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said on Saturday that the government was still trying to secure the release of 20 Thai citizens who remain captive.

(Writing by Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Christina Fincher)