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Thailand Pledges to Repatriate Its Nationals From Israel


The first groups of Thais who were evacuated from Israel following the onslaught by Hamas in southern Israel have landed in Bangkok.

Fifteen Thais arrived Thursday at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport following the long flight from Tel Aviv. Throngs of reporters awaited them, along with government officials and anxious family members.

“The prime minister has instructed me, the other ministers, minister of labor, minister of defense, deputy minister of public health to welcome this group of Thai nationals who have returned safely. It is with great pleasure,” Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara told reporters.

Two of the returnees were in wheelchairs, having been caught in the mayhem involving Israel and militant group Hamas.

Families await the return of Thai nationals who left the conflict zone in Israel to return to Thailand, at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, in Bangkok, Oct. 12 2023. (Tommy Walker/VOA)

Families await the return of Thai nationals who left the conflict zone in Israel to return to Thailand, at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, in Bangkok, Oct. 12 2023. (Tommy Walker/VOA)

One of them, Katchakorn Pudtason, described being caught in the crossfire and suffering a gunshot to the knee.

“I’m very happy to be part of the first group of Thai nationals who were able to come back,” he told reporters. “There was intense fighting and the farm where I worked at. We were able to get to safety because the employer brought me to safety.

“In the afternoon there was more intense gunfire; it felt like a rock had hit my knee; then they knew. There were four of us who were wounded, some very badly. The gunfire was constant and intense,” he added.

After speaking with the media, the group was put on a bus and taken to local medical centers for examination and treatment.

A second flight carrying 26 Thai nationals arrived later in the day.

Thailand’s government has pledged to bring back more nationals who wish to leave Israel.

Thai nationals arrive in Bangkok, Thailand, Oct. 12 2023. More than 5,000 Thai workers in Israel have requested to return to Thailand. (Tommy Walker/VOA)

Thai nationals arrive in Bangkok, Thailand, Oct. 12 2023. More than 5,000 Thai workers in Israel have requested to return to Thailand. (Tommy Walker/VOA)

Hamas fighters from Gaza crossed into Israel on Saturday by land, sea and air, killing hundreds of Israeli civilians. In response to the attacks, Israel declared war on Hamas and has since pounded Gaza with air attacks, killing hundreds of Palestinians and turning buildings into rubble.

Around 30,000 Thais live in Israel, many of them migrants working in the agricultural sector. Reports say 21 Thais have been killed since the Hamas militants’ attacks started.

Thai officials say 14 Thais have been abducted, and 13 injured.

Thai efforts to secure safe passage

Foreign Minister Parnpree said officials are working tirelessly to ensure more Thais return home safely.

“We are not complacent to the remaining nationals who are still in Israel. The situation is difficult, there are many challenges; the Thai officers on the ground in Israel are working around the clock to make it possible for the rest of the Thai nationals to be returned home,” Parnpree said.

“We are also in contact with commercial flights, and the royal Thai Air Force is doing its utmost to ensure the highest number of Thai nationals can come home in the shortest amount of time. We are also looking into other routes to ensure this entire operation is successful and the return of Thai nationals.”

Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara addresses reporters after Thai nationals returned safely from the conflict zone in Israel, in Bangkok, Thailand, Oct. 12 2023. (Tommy Walker/VOA)

Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara addresses reporters after Thai nationals returned safely from the conflict zone in Israel, in Bangkok, Thailand, Oct. 12 2023. (Tommy Walker/VOA)

Under normal circumstances, flights between Thailand and Israel occur daily. With conflict having erupted, many airlines have canceled these routes.

Israeli’s flagship El Al Israel Airlines is still operating direct flights.

More than 5,100 Thais in Israel have registered to return home, according to Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Due to fewer flight options, the Thai government is seeking alternatives to repatriate its nationals and get them out of harm’s way, Thai Defense Minister Sutin Klungsang said.

“Now there are more Thai nationals asking to be repatriated, but military and Thai aircraft may not suffice to enter Israel,” the official said. “The second plan is to transport Thai nationals to nearby countries. We are looking at Dubai and the UAE. Once they have been transported to a nearby country, then we can begin the process of returning them safely.”

On Wednesday, Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said the government had arranged four more private planes to evacuate those who have requested repatriation from Israel, local media report.

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post reports the Royal Thai Air Force has planes on standby to fly more Thai citizens home, pending approval from other countries for the use of their airspace. The paper also cites the transport minister, Suriya Jungrungreangkit, as saying three local commercial airlines have offered to help with repatriation.

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