The Amazing Story Of The Israeli Embassy In Bangkok Hostage Crisis, Dec 1972
With Thailand mourning the death of their beloved King Bhumibol’s death on Oct 13, and his son Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn preparing to become the next monarch, the Bangkok Post reminds us what happened back in Dec 28, 1972, when then-Prince Vajiralongkorn was about to be appointed crown prince and heir.
In 1972, armed Palestinian “Black September” guerrillas seized the Israeli Embassy in Bangkok, threatened to execute the six Israelis inside and blow up the building. But just as suddenly they surrendered, saying “We love your king” when told that King Bhumibol Adulyadej was appointing his son as sole heir to the throne that very day.
Four Palestinian guerrillas wearing jackets in the sweltering heat had arrived in a taxi at the Israeli Embassy on Soi Langsuan near the British Embassy just before lunch. They climbed “over the wall, using the embassy insignia [placard] as a stepladder”, the embassy’s messenger Anek Bariman said hours later.
The gunmen unveiled assault rifles, threatened to kill people at the gate, and then forced their way into the building by smashing the front door’s glass and unlocking it. Inside the embassy, they seized six hostages: Israel’s ambassador to Cambodia Simon Avimor, first secretary Nitzan Hadas, his wife Ruth, administration attache Pincus Lavie, Lavie’s assistant Danie Beri and Mr Beri’s wife.
“The Zionist occupation of Palestine is a criminal and inhuman action with the aim of annihilating our people,” the four gunmen said in a typed statement which they threw out of an upstairs window in the early afternoon. They identified themselves as members of the Palestinian Organisation Black September Ali Taha Group.
“We consider that every Israeli Embassy is Palestinian land,” the statement said.
They included a list of 36 Palestinian prisoners’ names and said they must be freed from Israel’s jails and sent to Egypt or the gunmen would kill the six hostages.
“If Israel rejects our demands, we will be free then to treat this staff in the same manner of murder it treats our people,” the statement warned, setting a deadline for 8am the next morning.
Steel-helmeted army paratroopers and police sharpshooters took up positions alongside the embassy and set up headquarters across the street in the Mater Dei Convent School.
Inside the school, Israel’s ambassador to Thailand Rehavam Amir and Egyptian ambassador Moustafa El-Assawy — who had been preparing to attend the royal investiture — discussed possible strategies with Thai officials who were scrutinising the embassy’s floor plan.
“All we can do is pray,” the Israeli ambassador’s wife told journalists.
And a miracle did happen. Read the whole thing. It is quite amazing.
Here are two of the Israeli hostages speaking to the media after they were released.
Update: What makes this even more fascinating was the Egyptian ambassador’s constructive role in all of this, bearing in mind we were still at war with Egypt, and would be fighting them again within a year of this.
Egyptian Envoy’s Aid
“The Egyptian Ambassador helped us out a lot last night,” said Col. Narong Kittikachorn, son of the Foreign Minister, wh persuaded the guerrillas to surrender their three hand guns, two submachine guns, and pistols by telling them that regulations did not permit them to be brought aboard.
“He told them that yesterday and today were very important days for the Thai people, and if anything happens it would make things very difficult.” Colonel Narong said.
The Egyptian Ambassador was coming and going most of the night between the Israeli Embassy, where the guerrillas had barricaded themselves, and the Mater Dei School across the street, where the Israeli Ambas sador, Mr. Amir, was pacing nervously.
“I am sorry, I do not want to say anything,” he told journalists who asked him questions last night. “I am trying to save lives.”