Thai PM seeks Saudi aid for stranded workers in Israel

Photo courtesy of Akhilesh Sharma (Unsplash)

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin revealed plans to negotiate with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince for assistance in facilitating the return of Thai workers stranded in Israel.

The proposal involves granting the Royal Thai Air Force (RTFA) permission to traverse Saudi airspace, a currently prohibited action.

This was disclosed at Suvarnabhumi Airport before PM Srettha’s trip to China to attend the 3rd Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.

Following his China visit, the 61 year old Srettha is due at the inaugural ASEAN-GCC Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Sadly, he conceded that there has been little promising news regarding the Thai hostages detained in Gaza by Palestinian Hamas militants, despite ongoing negotiations. However, the Thai PM reassured that every possible avenue is being investigated to aid those abducted.

PM Srettha disclosed his plans to meet various foreign leaders during the summit, capitalising on personal relationships and diplomatic channels to aid the stranded workers.

Saudi Arabia

The inability of the RTFA to traverse Saudi airspace necessitates a detour around the country to reach Israel. The Thai prime minister hopes to leverage his visit to Saudi Arabia to discuss this issue.

“I will have an audience with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud, and we are expected to discuss a wide range of subjects.”

Regrettably, another Thai worker was killed in Israel, and another was taken hostage, bringing the Thai death toll to 29 and the captive count to 18.

The Bangkok-born PM also revealed that six Thai workers expected to return on the latest flight failed to appear. Attempts to contact these workers were unsuccessful, leading to suspicions of their presence in conflict zones, thus preventing travel.

The most recent RTFA A340-500 flight brought home 130 Thais on Monday. PM Srettha expressed his concern over the ongoing fighting and increasing Thai worker casualties.

His instructions to officials were clear: do everything possible to secure the release of the hostages in Gaza and facilitate their return home as soon as possible.

Israeli ambassador

In response to reports of Thai workers being coerced to continue working amidst the war by Israeli employers, the Thai PM confirmed his discussion with the Israeli ambassador to Thailand, Orna Sagiv, stating such conduct was unacceptable. Sagiv has committed to investigating the matter.

The 130 Thais that returned from Israel on Monday represent the fourth group to have returned since the Israel-Hamas war erupted on October 7. The flight departed from Ben Gurion airport in Israel on Sunday at 7.27pm Thailand time and landed at Don Mueang Airport the following day at 6.50am, reported Bangkok Post.

The returning group, consisting of 127 men, two women, and a five years old girl, was greeted at the Wing 6 terminal by Defence Minister Sutin Klungsang and air force chief-of-staff ACM Seksan Kantha. Prior to boarding, all were examined by an RTFA medical team and underwent security checks.

After processing through immigration, they were transported from Don Mueang Airport to the Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute, where waiting relatives met them. Sutin confirmed plans for the aircraft to return to Israel to bring home another group of Thais, using the same route.

The workers who returned will initially receive 15,000 baht (US$414) each from the Ministry of Labour as compensation. Their safe return home and the support from Thai embassy staff brought expressions of gratitude from the workers.

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Thailand News

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.

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