Thai Nationals evacuated from Sudan crisis arrive in Saudi Arabia, await repatriation

Image courtsey of Bangkok Post

The first group of 82 Thai nationals, who have fled the ongoing turmoil in Sudan, arrived at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia yesterday morning. They are awaiting repatriation to Thailand by the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) today, as confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The RTAF dispatched three aircraft – two C-130s and an Airbus A340-500 – from the Bor Nor 6 military airport adjacent to Don Mueang on Tuesday night as part of the mission to repatriate Thais from Saudi Arabia after they had escaped the violent and escalating crisis in Sudan.

The aircraft were on their way to Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport, which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had designated as the meeting point for Thai citizens in Sudan looking to return to Thailand.

The initial group of 82 Thai nationals reached the airport at 9am, having travelled via a ship from Port Sudan provided by the Saudi Arabian government, Kanchana Patarachoke, director-general of the Department of Information at the Ministry, reported.

The ship was also transporting nearly 1,700 foreign travellers of various nationalities, all seeking to return to their home countries.

The Airbus dispatched from Thailand arrived at Jeddah airport at 9.30pm yesterday to collect the Thai citizens, while the remaining two planes were still en route. Following screening, it emerged that only 78 of the group would continue to Thailand today, as four individuals opted to remain in Saudi Arabia due to having family there.

Another 133 Thais, along with one foreign family – consisting of a Thai woman, her American spouse, and their child – have registered for evacuation with Saudi authorities and are currently waiting to board the Saudi ship from Port Sudan.

Additionally, a group of five Thai students hoping to return to their home country and currently residing outside the city of Khartoum in Sudan, are also making their way to the port, as noted by Kanchana yesterday.

Air Chief Marshal Alongkorn Vannarot, the commander-in-chief of the air force, mentioned that the arrival of the Thai evacuees at Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok may be delayed from the original schedule due to the complexity of the mission.

The evacuees were initially anticipated to return to Bangkok yesterday night, however, the new expected arrival time at Don Mueang Airport has been amended to around 10pm today; this schedule may also change.

Around 800 individuals were waiting to embark on the Saudi ship at Port Sudan, according to reports. Air Chief Marshal Alongkorn stated that the air force may need to implement a risk management plan, as it remains uncertain whether everyone will manage to leave the port due to the large number of different nationalities attempting to depart.

Thai nationals arrived at the airport in Jeddah by bus yesterday morning, as they prepared for their journey back to Thailand.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.