Thai Muslim negotiator says Hamas 'set no conditions', 'took care' of hostages
The Thai negotiator who held talks with Hamas for the release of 17 of his compatriots from Gaza has said that the Palestinian group “took good care” of the hostages and “set no conditions” on what the hostages could and cold not say following their release.
Speaking in an interview with Sky News on Wednesday, Dr Lerpong Sayed, who is a Thai Muslim, said he was confident that the hostages have been treated well and that Hamas wasn’t exploiting them.
The negotiator insists there were no conditions from Hamas on what the hostages could or couldn't say, and dismissed the idea that Hamas are using the hostage releases as a spectacle.
“They were well taken care of, well looked after, given shelter, clothes, food and water and given mental support,”, Sayed confirmed.
Dr Sayed is part of a small team of three people working on behalf of the Thai House Speaker, Wan Muhammad Noor Matha, and the Shia Muslim leader in Thailand, Syed Sulaiman Husaini. The group formed by the speaker, a Malay muslim from the country's south, worked independently from the Thai government.
Sayed says attributes he and his team’s down-to-earth approach as being key to securing the release of the Thai hostages.
“We went there to negotiate as normal people, not politicians. Hamas saw this. They saw us as Thai Muslims,” he said to Sky News.
“They [Hamas] promised that if there was a ceasefire Thai people would be released in the first group. Now we can obviously see Thais are among the first citizens freed compared to 20 other nationalities.”
Thai nationals were the single largest group of foreign nationals held by Hamas in Gaza. Most went to Israel to work as farm labourers. On 7 October, when Hamas launched its attack, many were working in farms on the border. Before the war, 30,000 Thai labourers worked in Israel, predominantly in the agricultural sector.
Controversially, Sayed says he believes Hamas were justified in taking hostages.
And the negotiator said that Hamas delivered a stark warning to Thais thinking of working in Israel, saying: “The border area is disputed land and it's war time and Hamas will consider anyone who works there is working for the outlaws.”
According to the Thai government, 15 Thai nationals are still held in Gaza.