The precarious Israel-Hamas conflict has unfortunately claimed the lives of four more Thai citizens, pushing the gruesome toll to 28 deceased Thais. In addition, 16 have sustained injuries, while 17 are supposedly trapped in what can only be described as a hostage situation, according to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s statement. These announcements were made by the Prime Minister after an emergency meeting with the Rapid Response Centre (RRC) at the heart of the Foreign Ministry.
As the situation continues to escalate at a daunting pace, the Thai government has emphasized the speedy return of all Thai workers to their homeland this month. However, ramping up the number of flights to facilitate such a large scale movement proves to be a Herculean task. Presently, 32 flights, capable of carrying an estimated 5,700 passengers have been lined up by the airlines. Still, the demand overshadows the available capacity with over 7,000 expected evacuees on the list, a number which may rise with the continuing struggle between both parties.
The Prime Minister highlighted the critical role of air travel as the only feasible course of extraction amidst closed sea and road pathways. The government’s plan involves transferring the employees to neighboring nations like Jordan for a temporarily stay, before they embark on their final trip to their homeland. The 61-year-old Thai leader vowed to enhance attempts to broker the release of the captured, with the Foreign Ministry involving both conventional and informal networks. The Foreign Ministry is also expected to cater to issues of lost Passports amidst the crisis.
Labour Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakarn added his voice to the prime minister’s call for additional aircraft for mass repatriation. Currently, six aircraft are available, provided by Nok Air, AirAsia, Thai Airways International and the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF). About 7,540 Thais have registered at the embassy, with 7,446 keen on returning home and the remaining 94 opting to stay in Israel. Tomorrow, a group of 137 Thais will land at Don Mueang Airport on RTAF, the Minister added.
The government has managed to repatriate around 200 Thai workers, some of whom had lost their passports in the chaos. The number of daily evacuees is projected to reach a poultry 400 per day in the coming days. Fifteen officials from the Labour and Foreign Ministries have been dispatched to Israel to oversee the task, with expectations of all 7,000 registered Thais to be back on home soil by next month. The Labour Ministry intends to liaise with Israeli employers or job placement firms to facilitate workers’ return before their contracts draw to a close.
39-year-old returnee, Chaiya Boonsang, bearing the scars of surviving a brutal attack by Hamas, shared his experiences with the Bangkok Post. Recalling the tragedy of October 7, he mentioned taking shelter with colleagues behind a barricaded factory door and seeking refuge on the roof for three days without electricity and water. In this dire situation, they attempted to reach out to the embassy for aid. Chaiya, who had commenced working on an Israeli farm under a five-year contract last August, signalled his reluctance to return to Israel. “The economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic pushed me towards working there. But now I’ll hunt for jobs here in Thailand. I can’t fathom returning to Israel.”