On Wednesday morning, the first group of 82 Thai nationals fleeing the unrest in Sudan arrived at the airport in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Over the next few days, more than 130 others are anticipated to make their journey home from Sudan. The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) was dispatched to repatriate the Thai citizens who had sought refuge in Saudi Arabia from the escalating crisis in Sudan.
The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs coordinated the efforts and designated King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah as a gathering point for the Thai nationals in Sudan who wished to return to Thailand. The first group of citizens arrived at the airport after a ship provided by the Saudi Arabian government transported them from Port Sudan. The ship was carrying nearly 1,700 foreigners of various nationalities who were attempting to return to their home countries.
Three aircraft – two C-130s and an Airbus A340-500 – were sent on this mission by the RTAF, departing from the Bor Nor 6 military airport next to Don Mueang. The Airbus arrived at the Jeddah airport on Wednesday evening, ready to pick up the Thai nationals. Meanwhile, the other two planes were still en route to Jeddah. Of the 82 citizens waiting to be transported, 78 were scheduled to fly back to Thailand on Thursday, with four choosing to remain in Saudi Arabia due to having relatives there.
Another 133 Thai nationals, along with a foreign family comprising a Thai woman, her American spouse, and their child, have registered with Saudi authorities for evacuation and are awaiting their turn to board the Saudi ship from Port Sudan. Additionally, five Thai students residing outside the city of Khartoum in Sudan are on their way to the port, according to Kanchana Patarachoke, director-general of the Department of Information at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
However, the complexity of the mission may cause delays in the arrival of the Thai evacuees at Don Mueang Airport, according to ACM Alongkorn Vannarot, the air force commander-in-chief. Initially, they were expected to return to Bangkok by Wednesday night, but the current estimate suggests they will arrive at Don Mueang Airport on Thursday around 10 pm, although that timing is subject to change as well.
Due to the large number of people from various nationalities desperate to leave Sudan, there have been reports of around 800 people waiting to board the Saudi ship at Port Sudan. This has led to concerns regarding whether everyone will be able to leave the port, and as a result, ACM Alongkorn stated that the air force may need to carry out a risk management plan, taking into account the developing situation on the ground.