In the tranquil hours of the early morning, a series of aircraft made their descent into Don Mueang airport in Thailand’s bustling capital, Bangkok. These were not ordinary flights from neighboring countries, but flights of hope and relief, bringing back 266 Thai nationals who had been evacuated from the border town of Laukkaing in Myanmar’s Shan State amidst escalating unrest.
A unit of Thai Air Asia Flight FD9702 graced the airport grounds around 3am, closely followed by a second battalion of returnees on Thai Lion Air Flight SL7007 which landed approximately an hour later. The aircraft didn’t just ferry Thai evacuees, but also housed six brave individuals from the Philippines and a solitary, resilient resident of Singapore.
Upon their arrival, they were enveloped in an organized embrace by representatives from immigration, consular affairs, and other authorities. The 266 Thai nationals gradually disembarked, their relief palpable as they swapped the cabin’s confinement for police-escorted buses ready to transport them to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s Training and Development Institute nestled in Nong Chok district.
Once at the institute, their ordeal was far from over. A collective of officials from specialized departments, including the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Public Health, and specialized police units such as the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division and Metropolitan Police Bureau, were on standby. They were mandated with the task of screening each individual—a somewhat daunting process part of the National Referral Mechanism, aimed to distinguish those who fell prey to human trafficking from those associated with criminal activities.
As the Thais commenced their stringent process, their foreign counterparts were entrusted to the protection of their respectable embassies. For the relatives anxiously waiting for news about their loved ones, they were urged to establish contact with either the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division police or the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security using helpline numbers 1191 and 1300 respectively.
Foreign affairs spokesperson, a certain charismatic Kanchana Patarachoke, reminded everyone that the government holds a steadfast obligation to assist every Thai national experiencing turmoil abroad. This policy, she reiterated, applied indiscriminately – from victims of fraudulent schemes to those who pursued illegal travel ventures. The process of screening these 266 individuals to delineate victims from suspects is a meticulous task and requires a substantial amount of time, she emphasized.