50 days in Hamas captivity: Thai man recalls beatings and bleakness

2 months ago 56

DON PILA, Thailand - When Thai farm labourer Anucha Angkaew scrambled out of the bunker where he had been sheltering from rockets on Israel's border with the Gaza Strip around 7.30 am on Oct. 7, he expected to see Israeli soldiers.

Instead, Anucha and his five Thai colleagues were accosted by 10 armed militants, whom he identified as Hamas by the Palestine flags on their sleeves.

"We shouted 'Thailand, Thailand'," said Anucha, a soft-spoken 28-year-old with a wispy goatee. "But they didn't care."

Two of the six Thais were killed soon after, including a friend who Anucha said was shot dead in front of him in a random act of violence. The rest were forced on to a truck for a roughly 30 minute ride into Gaza.

Anucha's first person account offers a glimpse into what many hostages endured - and some continue to endure. He described sleeping on a sandy floor and beatings by Hamas captors, who he said singled out Israelis for especially brutal treatment.

To keep their hopes up, the four Thai men relied on chess games on a makeshift board, memories of family and craving for Thai food.

Few of the freed hostages have spoken at length about their ordeal, though others who have since been released also described beatings and death threats.

Hamas officials did not immediately respond to a written request for comment on Anucha's account.

"I thought I would die," he said on Wednesday, at his family home in rural northeastern Thailand, where he returned this month after 50 days in captivity.

Almost all that time was spent inside two small underground rooms, secured by armed guards and accessed by dark narrow tunnels.

At least 240 people - Israelis and foreign nationals - were abducted to Gaza on Oct 7. by Hamas militants who burst through the border and killed some 1,200 people.

More than 100 hostages - largely women, children and non-Israelis - have been released.

In retaliation for the Oct. 7 attack, Israel mounted a devastating bombing campaign and ground offensive that has killed more than 15,000 people, according to figures from Palestinian health officials deemed reliable by the United Nations.

Some 130 people, including eight Thais, remain captive.

Before the war, around 30,000 Thai labourers worked in the agriculture sector, making them one of Israel's largest migrant worker groups. Israel offers the farmhands higher wages.

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