By Panu Wongcha-um
BANGKOK, Nov 3 (Reuters) – A veteran Thai politician said on Friday that he held direct talks with the Palestinian group Hamas seeking the safe release of Thai hostages it is holding, amid a flurry of diplomatic activity by Thailand’s government.
The back-channel talks that lasted for about two hours were conducted in-person in the Iranian capital Tehran on Oct. 26 and Hamas officials said Thai hostages were safe and well-looked after, politician Areepen Uttarasin told Reuters.
“I told them that I am here not to negotiate but simply to ask for their release,” said Areepen, who declined to name the Hamas officials he met with.
Thailand’s government has yet to confirm the direct Hamas talks but has said it has sought the release of the hostages via various channels.
Thailand was in touch with Iran and other regional governments that can make contact with Hamas, its foreign minister, Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara said on Friday, among them Qatar and Egypt.
Parnpree, who was in the Middle East earlier this week, said Iran was close to Hamas and has promised to help with negotiations.
At least 23 Thai nationals were among more than 240 people taken hostage when Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7 in the deadliest day of the country’s 75-year history.
Of the more than 1,400 people Israel says were killed in the rampage, at least 32 were Thai.
About 30,000 Thai labourers work in Israel, mainly in the farm sector, and 7,200 of those have since been repatriated, according to the foreign ministry.
(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um and Chayut Setboonsarng; Writing by Devjyot Ghoshal; Martin Petty)