The repercussions of war are harrowing, personal, and far-reaching; they affect not just the locations where conflict happens, but also those who’ve journeyed there to work and make a living, thereby hoping to make a better life for themselves and their families back home. A somber reminder of this is the plight of the Thai laborers who recently found themselves amidst the reignited Hamas attacks in Israel, creating a distressing experience that has led some to question the wisdom of allowing Thais to find work in such volatile regions.
On a fated Thursday, 41 Thai laborers made an emotional return home from Israel, onboard Israel Airlines flight LY 083. Of these, 15 were under the auspices of the Thai government, while the other 26 had managed to secure passage by financing their own tickets. Thailand’s government has dispatched around 30,000 workers abroad, a staggering 7,000 of whom landed jobs in Israel, primarily in the agricultural sector. Among them was Somma Saeja, a man from Tak, whose life was drastically altered when he was shot in the left knee during the Hamas onslaught.
After his plane’s tires grudgingly kissed the tarmac of Suvarnabhumi airport, he shared his harrowing story with Bangkok post. How his employer had sheltered their group of eight Thai workers during the intense bombardment. How a semblance of calm had led them to believe they could venture out, only for the violent serenade of gunfire to cut their hopes short and leave him wounded. His story not just gave face to the tragedy, but also echoed the harsh reality of the dangerous gamble taken by those seeking employment in such areas.
For individuals like Somma, and the anonymous 33-year-old Mr. Ball who lived near the Gaza Strip, these were places of potential fortunes with their bountiful income prospects. But the intensifying cycles of violence and chaos, which culminated with factories smoldering under burnt skies and countless bodies stilled by violence, made them witness the flip-side of their gamble. Despite hefty loans, family obligations, and existing employment contracts, the life-risking experience led these brave souls to choose safety over financial prosperity.
Among those awaiting the returning workers was Nittaya Sunthornchai, whose brother Sathit Promunart had been working in Israel since April 2021. Standing as an example of the diligent and hard-working Thai laborers, Sathit’s earnings had significantly cut down their family’s massive debt. Yet, seeing his life threatened by the violence has impelled Nittaya to call for a reconsideration of the policy of sending Thais to tumultuous red zones of conflict.
In response, Labour Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn has assured that steps are being taken to coordinate with the employers for payment of any pending wages and to secure future employment opportunities for these workers in safer regions post the cessation of conflict. Furthermore, members of the Aid Fund for Overseas workers can expect financial assistance in case of abrupt recall or disability due to war. This policy will also cover their medical expenses and compensation for premature contract termination, serving as a safety net for these brave individuals who risk their lives seeking better futures overseas.