A heart-wrenching tale unfolds from Chiang Rai, where a desperate woman is making a plea for the safe return of her husband, allegedly kidnapped amid a hostile strike by Palestinian militia Hamas on 7th of October in Israel. Suntree Saelee, a 28-year-old Hmong woman hails from the modest village of Ban Kio Kan nestled in tambon Rim Khong of the picturesque Chiang Khong district. In a grave turn of events, she lost communication with her husband, Kong Saelao, aged just 26, during the said attack.
Suntree narrated that a comrade of her husband had informed her about how, on that fateful day, Hamas insurgents brazenly attacked a labourers’ camp nestled within an avocado plantation in Khirbet Mador, a mere 3 kilometres from the troubled Gaza Strip that is a Palestinian-run area. Her husband along with three other Thai labourers were at the ill-fated campsite. The co-worker managed to elude capture while Saelao, and the other three Thai nationals were overpowered. This heartbreaking tale was reinforced with photographic evidence and a video clip that portrayed Saelao in a dangerous headlock, being forcefully dragged away by a group of individuals dressed in military attire.
Upon seeing the pictures, an emotional Suntree shared “When I saw the picture and the clip, I knew it was him”. Quaking with fear for his well-being, she outwardly expressed her apprehensions “I am concerned for his safety. Please help him.” Saelao, prior to his abduction, had been gainfully employed at the avocado farm for the better part of a year, drawing an income of approximately 50,000 baht monthly. His objective was to save enough to ensure a plush new home and an automobile for his loved ones. The sole earner of his family, he made sure to communicate with her daily via digital means.
The circumstances under which they last spoke were undeniably tense. On the morning of 7th October, he confided in her about an impending conflict, hearing gunshots and explosions in the vicinity. The call abruptly ended at about 11.30am which tragically marked their last contact.
Hearing Suntree’s plea, the district’s chief, Wirun Sitthiwong, mentioned that the provincial governor had instructed a delegation from Chiang Khong Hospital to stand in support of her and her family. The district is presently organizing the return of a fellow Thai worker, Weera Khantan, from Israel at the behest of the tambon Wiang subdistrict head.
Serving as the assistant village leader of Ban Kio Doi Luang, Wilaiporn Saeya narrated how over 20 Hmong men from Ban Kio Kan and Ban Kio Doi Luang are currently working in Israel, and some in South Korea. The urge to provide a better living for their kin has led these young men to leave their homeland. As a result, the villages are mainly composed of the elderly, women, and children. These men work abroad for 2 to 5 years, aiming to save money and repay their debts. An emotional testament to the lengths individuals will go to ensure a comfortable life for their loved ones, even if it means living and working in areas prone to conflict.