The government will offer low-interest loans of up to 150,000 baht to each Thai worker who returned from Israel as a result of the Hamas-Israel war so they can clear any debts owed to job brokers or use the money to pursue other careers.
Paopoom Rojanasakul, secretary to the finance minister, said on Tuesday the cabinet had instructed the Government Savings Bank (GSB) and the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) to provide loans of two billion baht to Thais who were working in Israel when the conflict erupted on Oct 7.
Those who were vendors or self-employed before going to work in Israel can apply for loans of up to 150,000 baht each with the GSB, while those who were previously farmers can borrow the same amount from the BAAC, Mr Paopoom said.
He said some Thai workers had to return to Thailand before they could complete their work contracts as a result of the war, and they did not have enough money to pay their debts or pursue other careers.
Some decided to remain in Israel because they were also concerned that if they had headed home, they would not have earned enough to pay off their debts, he added.
Therefore, the cabinet approved the low-interest loan scheme to ease their plight, Mr Paopoom said.
Government spokesman Chai Wacharonke said the terms of the loan allow for a grace period of up to 12 months and a repayment period of up to 20 years.
The loan carries an annual interest rate of 3%, of which the borrowers will be charged 1%, and the government will subsidise the rest, he said, adding workers can apply from now until June 30.
Mr Chai went on to say that Labour Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn also proposed at Tuesday's cabinet meeting that Thai returnees be given another 50,000 baht in compensation from the central budget earmarked for emergency purposes, in addition to the 15,000 baht they have already received from the Labour Ministry's fund for Thai workers abroad.
"The minister also suggested the 50,000-baht compensation should be given to 5,000-6,000 workers who returned during the early stages [of the war]," Mr Chai said.
"The prime minister promised to consider this at the next cabinet meeting, and the Labour Ministry will have to present further details."
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara began his visit to Qatar and Egypt on Tuesday to discuss help for Thais abducted by Hamas.
He planned to meet the prime minister and foreign affairs minister of Qatar in Doha later on Tuesday and the foreign affairs minister of Egypt in Cairo on Wednesday.
"The Thai government is opening all negotiation channels possible to coordinate with Hamas to seek the release of the [Thai] hostages as soon as possible," Mr Parnpree said.
On Monday, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said 22 Thais were confirmed being held hostage. Others could not be contacted.
"I say again that all Thais in Israel should return home as soon as possible," Mr Parnpree said.