With a poignant embrace from a mother to her son at Suvarnabhumi airport, one of the 244 brave Thais who made it back home from Israel amidst the turmoil resonates deeply with the significance of their return. The photograph taken by Sutthiwit Chayutworakan encapsulates a moment of relief, a break in the storm for these tireless workers who had endured the conflict-bedeviled land of Israel.
Saksit Wichitthongchai, one of the returnees, recollected his petrifying experiences with an invisible cloak of fear perpetually draped around him. The tales of living amidst sporadic gunfire, compliments of the Hamas terrorists – intimidating nearby work camps, echo the bravado and courage they exhibited while in the foreign land. Every night was a story of survival as every worker adhered to the alarming yet necessary ritual of carrying knives, forming an impromptu defense against the imminent danger.
The terror of hearing about seven or eight comrades succumbing to the sudden attacks always flirted with their peace, as they dwelled just 30 kilometers away from the prime conflict region. However, amidst all the chaos, Saksit’s camp was fortunate. His words bear a sigh of relief, mentioning no casualties amongst them. Amidst the cacophony of explosive battles, a heartening melody of safety echoed for all 60 Thai workers quartered there.
Parallel stories of fear and survival reverberated from other returnees, a chorus that painted the encapsulating picture of their shared experience. Among them was Saksit, a young lad of 28 from Khon Kaen, who was part of the fifth troupe of confident returnees to touch down on Thai soil. The celebration was not limited to the workers. The highlight was the 33 Thai students from two universities whose exemplary academic journeys were also brave chapters in this chronicle of return.
The convey of resilience started from Tel Aviv on flight EI AI LY085 at 8:46 AM local time. Finally, at 9:01 PM, they victoriously pressed their feet onto their homeland at Suvarnabhumi airport in Samut Prakan province. The heroes were welcomed in the comforting arms of labour officials, airport personnel, and their kin. Among them was Boonyawee Khwaiphan, the deputy director of the Department of Employment. Their re-emergence brought with it stirring stories of survival and resilience that will be woven into the annals of Thai expatriate workers.