(MENAFN- Asia Times) BANGKOK – Buddhist-majority Thailand gained the release of at least 19 Thai hostages from Hamas, the most foreigners freed as of Wednesday, after Bangkok boldly began direct negotiations with the Palestinian militant group's representatives in Iran nearly two months ago.
How did Thailand succeed while many of the other foreign hostages have still not been freed? Thailand's quiet, bold, and direct diplomacy appeared to be a big key to their success.
This Southeast Asian nation did have the most foreigners employed near the Israel-Gaza border so the numbers were in their favor when Hamas decided to include foreign hostages in the releases.
Initial reports said 15 Argentinians were seized alongside 12 Americans, a dozen Germans, six French, and six Russians, plus about 35 other foreign nationals. The Thais were mostly impoverished agricultural and factory laborers contracted to the vulnerable desert zones.
Bangkok, meanwhile, also networked with the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Qatar and others for their freedom.
The October 7 assault on Israel by Hamas killed more than 1,400 Israelis and foreigners including at least 39 Thais, mostly agricultural laborers contracted to desert zones along the Israel-Gaza border.
Additionally, Hamas seized at least 240 hostages – mostly Israelis – and imprisoned them in Gaza at gunpoint including at least 32 Thais.
In small batches, Hamas has released a total of 60 Israelis, 19 Thais and only a handful of other countries' hostages. As of Wednesday, Hamas and other Palestinian militants still held about 160 hostages, including at least 13 Thais.
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