Thai casualties rise in Israel-Hamas conflict: Urgent repatriation underway

Photo taken from Bangkok Post.

The ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict has resulted in the death of four additional Thai nationals, escalating the total number of Thai fatalities to 28. Furthermore, 16 individuals are injured, and 17 are reportedly held captive, as declared by the prime minister.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin shared these details following the Rapid Response Centre (RRC) meeting at the Foreign Ministry.

The rapidly evolving situation has led the government to prioritise the repatriation of all Thai workers by the end of the month. However, increasing the number of flights for this purpose remains a formidable challenge. Presently, 32 flights, capable of accommodating approximately 5,700 individuals, are scheduled by commercial airlines.

The demand, however, exceeds the current capacity, with over 7,000 evacuees registered, a number that could escalate with the ongoing conflict.

PM Srettha stated that air travel remains the only viable mode of extraction, given the closure of sea and road routes. The government’s strategy involves transferring the workers to neighbouring countries such as Jordan before their final journey home.

The 61 year old Thai prime minister also promised to amplify efforts to negotiate the release of captured individuals, with the Foreign Ministry employing both formal and informal channels. The Foreign Ministry will also address issues related to lost passports.

Repatriation mission

Labour Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakarn echoed the prime minister’s primary concern of securing more aircraft for the repatriation mission. Six aircraft are currently available: two each from Nok Air and AirAsia, one from Thai Airways International and one from the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF).

Some 7,540 Thais have registered at the embassy, of which 7,446 wish to return home while 94 prefer to stay in Israel. The Minister also stated that an additional group of 137 Thais is scheduled to arrive at Don Mueang Airport tomorrow morning on the RTAF.

Approximately 200 Thai workers have already been repatriated, some of whom had lost their passports while seeking refuge. The number of evacuees is expected to increase to 400 per day over the next few days.

Fifteen officials from the Labour and Foreign Ministries have been dispatched to Israel to coordinate, and all 7,000 Thais registered for return are expected to be repatriated by early next month. The Labour Ministry will liaise with Israeli employers or job placement firms for workers wishing to return before their employment contracts end.

A 39 year old returnee, Chaiya Boonsang, recounted his harrowing experience of surviving the Hamas attack on October 7. He and his colleagues barricaded the factory door and took refuge on the rooftop for three days without electricity and water while attempting to contact the embassy for assistance.

Chaiya, who started working on an Israeli farm in August last year under a five-year contract, said he had no plans of returning to Israel, reported Bangkok Post.

“I went to work there due to the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic. But now I’ll be looking for jobs here in Thailand. I have no thoughts of returning to Israel.”

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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.

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