A Thai plastic surgeon on Thursday described drinking pond water to survive during three weeks of captivity at the hands of gun-toting kidnappers in Mali.
Nopparat Rattanawaraha, who also runs a popular YouTube channel where he posts travel clips, returned to Thailand after being released on payment of a reported $150,000 ransom.
The 49-year-old was back at work just a day after flying back to the kingdom, and recounted the dramatic moment he was seized while driving from Burkina Faso into Mali with a driver and guide.
After falling asleep in the car, Nopparat said he woke up to find himself surrounded.
“It was like a movie. There were five or six men carrying guns surrounding me but I couldn’t understand them,” he told Channel 3 television station.
“They told me to kneel down, put my hands behind my back and covered my eyes.”
The kidnappers took him to a remote location and he tried to stay calm and friendly, he said.
“They were not aggressive, they didn’t injure me. They spoke to me nicely,” he said, though food and drink were limited.
“I had to eat whatever there was. If there was no water, I needed to drink from the pond. Sometimes I could smell oil in it,” he said.
Helping him through was his homemade survival kit — a plastic bag containing mosquito repellent arm bands and herbal inhalers popular in Thailand.
In the third week of captivity, he was allowed to use the phone to speak to his mother and girlfriend, who spoke to the kidnappers to hear their ransom demands.
It has not been confirmed who paid the ransom, but the Thai police and foreign office helped to organise his return.
Nopparat said that while he did not feel immediately traumatised by his experience, he thought he would need professional counselling.
“You may see that I’m smiling right now, but before I shed a tear,” he said.
“I will need to seek (a) psychiatrist’s help later on.”
The United Nations recently urged action in Mali, Burkina Faso and neighbouring Niger following the “volatile” security situation, which has seen peacekeepers and civilians attacked by terror groups.
The three countries have struggled against a jihadist insurgency that has killed thousands of civilians, police and troops, while around two million people have fled their homes.