A somber air enveloped Suvarnabhumi airport in Samut Prakan, Thailand on a Friday morning as the first of eight Thai workers, who unfortunately lost their lives in Israel since Hamas’s unsettling attack commenced on October 7th, were returned to their homeland. Their bodies were brought home on a commercial flight, El Al Flight LY083, from Israel land at Suvarnabhumi airport in the wee hours of the morning at precisely 9:33 am.
An astronaut-like silence filled the Free Zone of the Customs Office within the airport as the coffins housing our fellow countrymen were displayed for a heart-wrenching mourning ceremony. Subsequently, the coffins started their final journey towards the respective home provinces of the deceased in vans graciously provided by Suriya, a prominent funeral services company.
Two bodies embarked on the journey to Udon Thani, while the others started their final voyages towards Nakhon Ratchasima, Khon Kaen, Buri Ram, Chaiyaphum, Si Sa Ket, and Sukhothai.
Simultaneously, the representative for the Ministry of Labour, Pairote Chotikasathien took it upon himself to guarantee that the respective families were taken care of in their hour of grief. Alongside alerting them of the tragic news, he revealed that the ministry would dispense an initial amount of 40,000 baht to each mourning family to aid in meeting any funeral expenses.
Working closely with the Israeli authorities, the labour ministry aims to secure bereavement benefits for each of the bereaved families. The spouses were reportedly expected to receive a regular payout of 40,000 baht every month, only terminating upon remarriage. Furthermore, an allotted pension spanning from 8,000 to 12,000 baht would be offered monthly for each child until they come to age with the advent of their 18th birthday.
Delving a little back in this tragic timeline of events, a poignant send off was organized at Ben Gurion International Airport, Tel Aviv, on Thursday at 3.30pm local time. Dignitaries attending the ceremony included Thai ambassador to Israel, Pannabha Chandraramya, deputy director-general of the Consular Affairs Department, Naruchai Ninnart, and the labour attaché at the Thai embassy in Israel. The ceremony was graced by high-ranking Israel officials such as Michael Ronen, director-general of the Department of Asia and the Pacific, and Inbal Mashash, head of the Foreign Workers Administration.
In addition, Thailand’s Labour Ministry continuously extends support to other Thai workers stranded due to the deteriorating situation in Israel. Around 4,000 packs of drinking water and dry food were dispatched as immediate relief. The ministry is fast-tracking efforts to progressively repatriate both documented and undocumented Thai workers caught in the crossfire in Israel. To counter reports of forced labour despite the ongoing war, Mr. Pairote reported that the labour attaché in Israel has been directed to intervene vehemently, as such practices contravene legal norms.