A veteran Thai politician from Thailand’s Muslim minority has said he met Hamas officials in Iran in an effort to secure the release of the Thai nationals being held captive in Gaza by the Palestinian group.
Former lawmaker and education minister Areepen Uttarasin said on Friday that he held two hours of “direct talks” with Hamas officials in the Iranian capital, Tehran, on October 26.
“I told them that I am here not to negotiate but simply to ask for their release,” said Areepen, who declined to name the people he met.
The Hamas officials told him that the Thai captives were safe and well looked after, but they did not agree to a date for their release. He said they were “waiting for the right time”.
At least 23 Thai nationals were among more than 240 people kidnapped by Hamas during the group’s unprecedented attacks on Israel on October 7. Of the more than 1,405 people Israel says were killed in the attacks, at least 32 were Thai.
Thailand’s foreign ministry did not confirm the backchannel discussions, but said it welcomed assistance from all parties as the government seeks the release of the captives via multiple channels.
Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin spoke to Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu on the phone on Wednesday and received assurances that Israel was making every effort to free those held by Hamas, including Thai nationals who form the largest group of captives in Gaza from any single foreign country.
Netanyahu also pledged to ensure care for all foreign nationals.
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