The illustrious Thai Prime Minister, Srettha Thavisin, has unveiled a plan to ask for assistance from Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince in a measure to help rescue Thai laborers stuck in Israel. The objective is to gain approval for the Royal Thai Air Force (RTFA) to cross Saudi Arabia’s air boundaries, which is presently not permitted. This was made known to the public at Suvarnabhumi Airport, before the PM’s voyage to China, where he was scheduled to participate in the 3rd Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.
Once his trip to China concludes, the dynamic 61-year old leader’s calendar marks the inaugural ASEAN-GCC Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as his next destination. Regrettably, he accepted that there has been rather scant positive news regarding the Thai citizens held captive in Gaza by Palestinian Hamas militants, despite relentless negotiation efforts. Nevertheless, he assured that every stone is being turned to provide aid to the abductees.
As a leader, PM Srettha plans to use his visit to the summit to hold talks with various foreign heads of state. He aims to use established personal relationships and diplomatic channels for the benefit of the stranded Thai workers. The major roadblock in this dire situation is the inability of the RTFA to span Saudi Arabia’s airspace, which requires circumventing the nation to reach Israel—a procedure that the Thai prime minister hopes to discuss with the Saudi Crown Prince during his visit.
Despite efforts, another Thai worker lost his life in Israel, and another captured, bringing the death toll to a dreary 29 and 18 hostages. In another unfortunate series of events, six Thai workers who were slated to board the latest flight back home didn’t show up. Attempts to reach them were unsuccessful, propelling concerns about their presence in conflict-inflicted regions, preventing their safe travel. However, a recent RTFA A340-500 flight did manage to bring home 130 Thais on Monday.
Sorrowed by the consistent clashes and mounting Thai casualties, PM Srettha instructed officials to expedite the release process of the captives in Gaza and to ensure their safe passage back home without delay. Following the circulation of reports regarding Thai laborers forced to continue working amidst the war in Israel by their employers, the Thai leader fortified his stand against such actions in a discussion with the Israeli ambassador to Thailand, Orna Sagiv, who has magnanimously agreed to look into the issue.
The latest RTFA flight from Israel was the fourth in a series of evacuation missions since the eruption of the Israel–Hamas conflict on October 7th, escorting home a total of 130 Thai nationals. The safe return of 127 men, two women, and a five-year-old girl was a sight for the sore eyes of their waiting relatives at the Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute. Following their immigration procedures, they were ushered to the Institute from Don Mueang Airport, after which the RTFA aircraft will head back to Israel on another rescue mission.
Upon return, each worker will initially receive compensation of 15,000 baht (approx. US$414) from the Ministry of Labor. Their safe return home, complemented by the unwavering support from Thai embassy staff, elicited appreciative sentiments from the scarred workers.