The setting is one that could be pulled from the pages of a high-stakes diplomatic thriller. The venue is the bustling Asean-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in Riyadh, the center of Saudi Arabian power. Thailand’s steadfast Prime Minister, Srettha Thavisin, stands as a beacon of strength amidst the chaos inflicted by the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
In a bid to secure the release of Thai hostages ensnared in the conflict, Thavisin meets with the formidable figure of Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud. It’s a crucial objective for Thavisin; the lives of his fellow countrymen and women are at stake. The Crown Prince reaches out, empathizing with the plight of the impacted Thai workers and makes a commitment. A pledge to assist the Thai government to ensure the secure and safe return of Thai citizens.
The scene brims with urgency. At the summit, these two leaders, alongside numerous others, including none other than the Thai Prime Minister himself, tackle the subject of the conflict head-on. They call for tranquility, for a resolution attained through discourse rather than firepower, and for the immediate release of hostages.
Thavisin shares with us a poignant commentary from his interactions at the summit. His luncheon with the Sultan of Oman takes a somber turn as the Sultan’s shock at the news of Thailand’s heavy losses, inclusive of 19 hostages, becomes evident. Echoing similar sentiments, Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah expresses his condolences for the losses that the Thai community has suffered, pinning concern on the fate of the hostages.
‘Rays of Hope’ can be seen as sources within the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) confirm that numerous nations – from Myanmar, India, Oman, the United Arab Emirates to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and even Israel, have permitted the RTAF to traverse their airspace to rescue stranded Thais from Tel Aviv, Israel. This extraordinary measure slashes the journey time of the RTAF’s A340-500 aircraft from the typical 13 hours to around 8.5 hours, as per reports from the Bangkok Post.
Last Friday’s casualty statistics from the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s Spokeswoman, Kanchana Patarachoke, paint a bleak picture with 30 casualties, 16 injuries and 19 hostages. Yet, in the midst of this calamity, there is an overwhelming show of solidarity and resilience. Over 8,000 Thais have registered for voluntary repatriation and of these, 116 have chosen to stay in Israel.
Patarachoke unveils the government’s bold plan to kick start two daily direct flights from Israel, beginning Monday, in an ambitious effort to evacuate more than 800 Thais daily. Showing an unwavering resolve, the RTAF commander, ACM Phanphakdee Phatthanakul, has signaled readiness to extend evacuation missions as required.
Simultaneously, international bodies namely the six-member GCC and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have appealed for the release of roughly 200 hostages held captive by Hamas militants and for the reinstatement of essential services for Palestinians.
Israel, meantime, has promised to dismantle Hamas, in retaliation for a deadly raid launched from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel, which resulted in the death of no less than 1,400 people, primarily civilians. Adding to the complexity, Hamas militants are reported to have abducted around 200 hostages from various countries. Yet, the Israeli army contends that the majority of these hostages are still alive.
In the face of all this intense geopolitical tension, one truth remains clear; the tireless actions of leaders like Prime Minister Thavisin demonstrate a beacon of hope amidst global uncertainties. Stay updated with the latest on these gripping developments on The Thaiger’s Facebook page.