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Thai workers who were held hostages by Hamas are released

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

We're covering all angles of this conflict. For more of that coverage and differing views go to npr.org/mideast.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

One of the Thai hostages released yesterday was Gong Sae Lao, whose story we told here on MORNING EDITION two weeks ago. Here's NPR's Michael Sullivan.

MICHAEL SULLIVAN, BYLINE: The last time I spoke with Gong's wife, Suntharee, she was crying out of fear and sadness, feelings that only grew in the past week as she saw other Thai hostages released, but not Gong. But today was different.

SUNTHAREE SAELEE: (Speaking Thai).

SULLIVAN: "This time," she says, "I was crying out of happiness." She found out Gong had been freed when a friend of his in Israel sent a picture from social media in much the same way she'd learned about Gong being taken from the farm where he worked on October 7. Then, while I was talking to her, her phone rang.

(SOUNDBITE OF CELLPHONE RINGING)

SAELEE: (Speaking Thai).

SULLIVAN: It was the Thai embassy in Israel with official confirmation, and her smile just got bigger. She listened as the official told her Gong was OK but would be kept in the hospital for a few days for observation. He was one of an estimated 30,000 Thais working mostly as farm workers in Israel where many make roughly $1,500 a month, five times what most could make back home, which is why most have elected to stay despite the war. Gong's plan had been to work for a year to pay off his debts then save money for a year for a house. Suntharee says she hasn't given up on that dream just as she never gave up on Gong.

SAELEE: (Speaking Thai).

SULLIVAN: "First he has to come home," she says. "Then, if he wants to go back to work in Israel to make it happen, I'm OK with it."

Michael Sullivan, NPR News, Chiang Rai.

(SOUNDBITE OF CLEM LEEK'S "PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michael Sullivan
Michael Sullivan is NPR's Senior Asia Correspondent. He moved to Hanoi to open NPR's Southeast Asia Bureau in 2003. Before that, he spent six years as NPR's South Asia correspondent based in but seldom seen in New Delhi.