'I hope this is real': Hostage deal raises hopes for parents in rural Thai village

Anucha’s father, Pornchai Angkaew, said he never imagined this could happen to his son, who had been working at Israel’s Kibbutz Re’im for almost two years. About 30,000 Thais work in Israel, mostly in agriculture, drawn by far higher wages than they could find in the poorer, rural areas of Thailand they come from.

Pornchai, 52, used the earnings his son sent home to build a house for Anucha, his wife and their 7-year-old daughter in Thailand’s Udon Thani province. 

The house is nearly complete but Pornchai does not have the willpower to finish it, he said, describing his heart as “in pieces.”

He says his wife can’t bring herself to visit the house at all, because it reminds her of Anucha.

“When I see his photo, I want to cry,” said Watsana, 45.

Anucha’s daughter does not know her father is being held hostage, her grandparents say, but she suspects it.

“I want to tell Hamas that my son did not do anything wrong,” Pornchai said. “My son went there to work to send money to support the family.”

While families like Anucha’s anxiously await news, others have already confirmed the worst.

Like Anucha, Kiattisak Patee, 35, was working as a farmhand at Kibbutz Re’im near the Gaza border. His family worried about him when there were rocket attacks, which were not uncommon.

Kiattisak Patee, 35, was killed in the Hamas attack on Israel.
Kiattisak Patee, 35, was killed in the Hamas attack on Israel. Courtesy Patee family

“He would call and let me know while he was in the bunker that he was hiding and I didn’t need to worry,” said his mother, Promma Yokee.

When she heard about the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, Promma said, “my heart was broken. I kept calling my son and he didn’t pick up the phone.”

After weeks of uncertainty, his body arrived home early this month.

Kiattisak spent four and a half years working on a chicken farm, sending most of the money he earned back to his family in Thailand, in a village 50 miles from Anucha’s. They used the funds to build a house and buy a tractor, which they showed NBC News.

“He built everything, and he did not even get to touch them,” said Promma, 54. 

Kiattisak’s family said he had planned to come home and work their rice farm so his parents could rest as they got older. His death has shattered their world.

“I’m very sad, so sad that I don’t want to do anything,” said his father, Khamsee Patee, 63.

Khamsee said he was “so proud” of his son, and had looked forward to his return.

“But he’s no longer here,” he said. “So I will just do what I can.” 


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