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VOA Asia Weekly: Thai Hostages Released by Hamas Describe Captivity

VOA Asia Weekly: Thai Hostages Released by Hamas Describe Captivity
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US military grounds Osprey helicopters. Indonesian climbers rescued after Mt. Marapi eruption. South Korea launches solid-fuel rocket. Filipino ube growing in popularity in the US.

Thai hostages released by Hamas describe their captivity.

Welcome to VOA Asia Weekly. I'm Chris Casquejo in Washington. That story is just ahead, but first, making headlines:

The U.S. military announced late Wednesday it was grounding all of its Osprey V-22 helicopters after last week’s fatal crash off the coast of Japan. The U.S. Air Force said on Tuesday it has located the remains of six of the eight crew members and identified all eight.

Rescuers in Indonesia successfully evacuated all climbers this Wednesday after the eruption of Mount Marapi, one of Sumatra’s most active volcanoes. The Sunday eruption claimed the lives of 23 people. 75 climbers said they saw volcanic ash spewing into the sky, enveloping the area in plumes of smoke. On Wednesday, family and friends mourned a 20-year-old hiker who died in the eruption, holding a funeral ceremony at her home.

Cyclone Michaung struck Chennai on the southern Indian coast Tuesday with intense winds and heavy rain. The ensuing floods killed 13 people. Rescuers used inflatable rafts and ropes to evacuate survivors from their homes.

16 people died, and 12 others were injured when the driver of a passenger bus lost control on a downhill curve in a central Philippine mountain village, plunging into a deep ravine.

South Korea successfully launched a solid-fuel rocket Monday. It carried a satellite over the sea near Jeju Island. The launch was aimed at keeping pace with the growing space race with neighboring North Korea. Seoul officials stated that the satellite will serve civilian purposes, including environmental monitoring.

23 Thai nationals, held hostage by Hamas in Gaza for 50 days, have returned home. Despite their ordeal, some are considering returning to Israel due to low wages in their rural home areas. VOA’s Vijitra Duangdee reports from Thailand.

A homecoming for a survivor of horrors thousands of kilometers away.

Wichian Temthong started working on an Israeli avocado farm just six days before Hamas militants stormed kibbutz Sa’ad, killing seven other Thai migrant workers.

He was taken hostage and held for seven weeks — a migrant worker from Thailand’s poorest region caught in someone else’s war.

He returned with 23 other Thais, freed during the now-lapsed cease-fire.

But nine more remain captive.

“I’ve had the warmest welcome from everyone. They’ve been coming to see me every day since I returned. It brought me to tears. My wife told me everyone’s been following the news. I had no idea as I didn’t see the light of the day for nearly two months. I’m just so happy to be back.”

Over 30,000 Thais worked in Israel before the Hamas assault.

39 Thais died in the raid, with 32 taken hostage in the bloody chaos.

Wichian — like the others who have returned — will not discuss the conditions of his capture while the other hostages remain inside Gaza.

Wichian is from Thailand's rice-producing Isan region, where average farm wages are $10 a day. In Israel, Thais can earn up to $1,700 a month.

Overseas work can be life-changing for Isan people, allowing migrants with little education to build a home or send their kids to college.

Hamas's kidnapping of Thai migrants has cast a spotlight on the poverty of millions of people in the Southeast Asian country.

As she waited at the airport for her cousin Khomkrit Chombua to return from Israel, Piyanus Phujuttu said Thailand’s low wages make overseas work inevitable for Isan’s people.

“My cousin just wanted to give his family a better life, give them a home, money.”

Now safe and at home, Khomkirt has also left the door open to return to the overseas workforce.

"I’m so happy to be back. It feels like I’ve been reborn. The whole village has welcomed me back."

Hard choices remain for Thailand's poorest people: Stay poor at home or risk their lives overseas.

Vijitra Duangdee, VOA News, Isan Region, Thailand.

Visit for the most up-to-date stories.

I’m Chris Casquejo.

Finally, one of the hottest food trends of the year in the U.S. is ube.

It’s a purple yam native to the Philippines, growing in popularity among kids in the DC area for its unique flavor and color.

“It tastes delicious. (Why do you like it?) It tastes like potatoes. It’s just great.”

But unlike in the Philippines, where ube is usually served in sweet dishes, an increasing number of Filipino American restaurants are using ube in dishes that aren’t sweet.

Thanks for watching VOA Asia Weekly.