Within touching distance of the embattled Gaza Strip, a mere 7 kilometres away, lived, worked, and endured, a brave Thai man named Charnchai Chidkhoksung. Employed as a modest tomato harvester, he recently lived to recount heartstopping experiences in the war-torn region that left profound marks on his spirit and psyche.
Charnchai, a stalwart 31-year-old, finally sought the comforting, familial confines of his home this past Sunday, three eventful months after the onset of violent exchanges, which he and his fellow workers bore witness to. It all began on October 7, when the seemingly incessant attacks by Hamas commenced.
The life-threatening reality of the situation came crashing home during a regular day at the farm, when a hair-raising siren broke the tense silence. That was the unnerving signal for his employer to direct the crew to the comparative safety of a nearby bomb shelter. Inside, cocooned by reinforced walls, Charnchai spent agonizing hours, the worrisome percussions of bomb blasts and gunfire echoing grimly, clutching at his heartstrings. Thoughts of his beloved wife and two young offspring, merely eight and five back home in Thailand, added to his torment.
When the appreciation of his predicament and the hope of salvation came via an evacuation plan laid out by the Thai government, Charnchai was torn by his circumstances. A loan of 100,000 baht (US$2,755) from his aunt awaited repayment, and the disbursement of his pending final salary to the tune of 70,000 baht, due on October 12, remained in the lurch, as cited by the Bangkok Post.
“It was fortunate that my aunt was understanding of my predicament and didn’t press for immediate repayment, assuring me that it was more important for me to return home,” Charnchai explains.
With his final salary secured at last, Charnchai signed up promptly for the government’s repatriation initiative. He now aspires to bide his time contributing to his mother’s eatery in his home place, whilst also contemplating future employment options. “My pay might be less in my native land, but I would think countless times before contemplating a professional stint in Israel ever again,” he confides.
On the illustrious day of his home-coming this Sunday, Charnchai was accompanied by 505 fellow Thais, comprising of six women and about 300 men. Among the returnees, nine individuals presented with respiratory issues that were promptly detected during a medical examination. Besides, psychological screenings also revealed that 39 people, including Charnchai, displayed symptoms of trauma from their ordeals.
Staggeringly, over 10% of the 3,150 individuals screened presented with signs of mental trauma, highlighting the grim reality and devastating impact suffered by Thai workers during their stay in the conflict-ridden Gaza region.
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