Connect with us

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Bringing Thai nationals home is a team effort

Published

 on 

PHOTO: MCOT

As the world ground to a crawl thanks to Covid-19, things began ramping up at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with staff working tirelessly to help Thai citizens abroad get back home. MFA staff are based both in Thailand and overseas and are tasked with assisting Thai nationals during emergencies such as natural disasters or indeed, a pandemic, wherever they are. They will also repatriate their citizens back to Thailand when necessary.

The first repatriation flight originated in Wuhan, China, in February, epicentre of Covid-19 at the time. In an interview with the Bangkok Post, the director-general of the Department of Consular Affairs, Chatri Archjananun, discusses the logistics of repatriation.

“On Feb 4, we came under pressure to evacuate our citizens from the then epicentre of the outbreak. We sought permission from China and sent our staff and doctors by air. Meanwhile, our staff at the Royal Thai Embassy in Beijing drove 1,000 kilometres to Wuhan and did everything at the airport, such as checking in passengers and taking their temperature. It was a blessing in disguise because it was a learning curve and we have a good memory of this mission.”

For Thai nationals a bit further afield, the process is slightly more complicated and more expensive. Those living in Latin America for example, provided a challenge for the MFA.

“The flight from Latin America is expensive and complicated. With Covid-19, we could rarely see a way out, but we still managed to make it happen. Some (of those we repatriated) travelled from Latin America to Brazil to Mexico to Netherlands to Thailand. Others headed for Kuala Lumpur and crossed the southern border of Thailand. We have a lot of sympathy for this group because these flights are not free, except the chartered flight to Wuhan sponsored by the private airline.”

The MFA also works with various world carriers to ensure flights can be used to repatriate people in both directions.

“When India, Italy, and Russia chartered flights to evacuate their citizens, we asked them to bring Thais back. Meanwhile, when we repatriated our citizens from Sydney, we flew 300-400 Australians back home. We are working together during the crisis.”

The logistics of each repatriation mission involves communication between several different government ministries, including the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Public Health, the Immigration Bureau, and the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand.

“Each ministry sends its staff to clear up unresolved issues at the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration. If they remain unsettled, they will be forwarded to the premier. You can see we have streamlined hierarchy, expedited decision-making, and let information flow from a single source.”

Chatri says most Thai citizens working overseas don’t bother to register with the MFA and this makes record-keeping a challenge. However, as a result of last year’s elections held outside Thailand for absentee voters, officials estimate there are around 1.6 Thais living and working overseas. Requests for repatriation must take into account available space in state quarantine. To date, over 83,600 people have been brought back to the Kingdom, part of a daily limit of 600.

“Stranded tourists, the sick, and those whose visas will soon expire are the first group we bring back. Students, monks, and the unemployed are the second group. We also consider other factors, including health risks and fair quotas for all groups. However, no matter how hard we try, we can’t cope with the demand of hundreds of thousands of Thai workers in South Korea and Malaysia because we must help others as well.”

In the early weeks of the pandemic, a solution needed to be found for hundreds of thousands of Thai nationals returning from South Korea, where they had been working illegally.

“The South Korean government requires them to self-report, or they will be charged and blacklisted. This stance encourages them to come back. They have discussed with us the possibility of increasing the number of seasonal workers in the agricultural sector under contract. For instance, they can spend three or four months working there annually.”

Chatri says that despite the challenges involved, MFA workers are committed to helping both their fellow citizens and foreigner nationals return home, but that resources are limited.

“One of Thai returnees said her mother was dying, but the flight quota was already filled. We asked the airline to let her board the flight for emergency reasons to see her mother on her deathbed. She wrote us a thank-you letter, and we posted it on the wall. Some blame us for not picking up calls or using inappropriate words in reply, but we have chosen not to respond. In fact, we have limited resources, including staff.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

Get more from The Thaiger

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Toby Andrews

    Monday, September 7, 2020 at 12:06 pm

    What do they want medals.
    This is not Dunkirk.
    They are paid to do this job, and not paid to brag about how well they do it.
    I lost all sympathy for them when they said they don’t pick up the phone and chosen not to respond.
    There are desperate Thais out there in the world and these well paid privileged Thai civil servants don’t pick up the phone.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

A seasoned writer, with a degree in Creative Writing. Over ten years' experience in producing blog and magazine articles, news reports and website content.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Sporting Activities29 mins ago

Phuket’s 5 best golf courses

Crime29 mins ago

Inmate who escaped Khon Kaen hospital back in custody

Coronavirus (Covid-19)1 hour ago

Masks recommended in crowds amid Covid increase

Sponsored1 day ago

Where you can get cannabis in Bangkok

Crime3 hours ago

Squabbling beach vendor gives rival a single bullet warning

Tourism3 hours ago

Russian invasion takes Thailand’s tourism forces by surprise

Road deaths4 hours ago

Late night drinking hopes dashed by Alcohol Control Committee

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Thailand5 hours ago

Why Pattaya? Is Pattaya worth visiting in 2023?

Transport5 hours ago

Thai Airways appoint new CEO

Crime6 hours ago

Private jet in ‘Tuhao’ case still flying free

Thailand22 hours ago

Thailand News Today | FIFA threatens to pull plug on World Cup broadcast rights in Thailand

Press Room22 hours ago

Iconic chef “Alain DUCASSE” returns to Bangkok for 3rd anniversary celebrations of Blue by Alain Ducasse

Koh Samui22 hours ago

VIDEO: Naked Russian man walks around with erection in Koh Samui

Thailand22 hours ago

Druggie arrested after inviting netizens to take crystal meth

Events22 hours ago

E-San Music Festival draws thousands to northeast Thailand this weekend

Travel22 hours ago

Where to go in Thailand in December

Thailand1 year ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism2 years ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism2 years ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism2 years ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Trending