Thais may be among first freed

Thais may be among first freed

FM says most workers in Israel in safe zones

Evacuees disembark from a Royal Thai Air Force plane sent to rescue them from Israel and make their way to the terminal at the Air Force base opposite Don Mueang airport on Oct 16. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)
Evacuees disembark from a Royal Thai Air Force plane sent to rescue them from Israel and make their way to the terminal at the Air Force base opposite Don Mueang airport on Oct 16. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)

The Thai workers held hostage by Hamas are expected to be among the first to be released, according to Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara.

Speaking at Government House, Mr Parnpree said the Israeli army has intensified its attack on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, but most of the Thai workers who remain in Israel are now in safe zones.

According to official figures, there were about 30,000 Thai workers there before the Oct 7 cross-border raids by Hamas. Some 8,000 have since been repatriated on 35 flights, according to Mr Parnpree.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported on Monday that more than 20,000 Thai workers have chosen to stay in Israel despite the escalating conflict.

"We are waiting for good news [regarding the release of the Thai hostages]," Mr Parnpree said.

When asked to elaborate, the minister said that during his recent trips to Qatar and Egypt, he had received information that the Thai hostages would be among the first set free.

Mr Parnpree visited Qatar and Egypt from Oct 30-Nov 2 to find ways to help the abducted Thai nationals. He met the prime minister of Qatar and the Iranian foreign minister -- who was also visiting Qatar -- as well as Egypt's foreign affairs minister.

Shortly afterwards, he said Qatar, Egypt and Iran had pledged to help negotiate with Hamas to secure their release.

Mr Parnpree said they told him the hostages are being detained in the Gaza Strip and that Hamas is composed of various cells, so they may be held in different locations.

"If the hostages are released, they are expected to be taken to a safe location, such as the Rafah border crossing in Egypt," he said.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry has already asked Egypt to grant Thai officials access to the Rafah border crossing to help them once they are released, he said.

Asked if the government would be sending any aircraft to repatriate more Thai workers from Israel, Mr Parnpree replied by saying many Thai workers have chosen to stay there.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs previously said it remains committed to facilitating the repatriation of Thai citizens.

The number of Thai workers seeking to come home has dropped dramatically in recent days, prompting the closure of the coordination centre set up at the Royal Thai Embassy in Tel Aviv.

The last few workers who had registered for repatriation arrived on Sunday.

Nine of the 14 officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who were attached to the centre have also been recalled.

According to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, 24 Thai workers were being held hostage as of yesterday. The number of deaths and injuries remained at 34 and 18, respectively.

Another seven bodies will be sent back to Thailand on an EL Al flight tomorrow.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said yesterday he instructed the Labour Ministry to ensure speedy compensation for any Thai workers who return.

Labour Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn previously said the ministry has agreed to provide an extra 50,000 baht in compensation to the repatriated Thai workers in addition to the 15,000 baht they will receive from the welfare fund for overseas workers.

The ministry has asked the Budget Bureau to earmark the funds from the central budget, and a response from the bureau is expected soon.

This is in addition to a proposed low-interest loan of up to 150,000 baht to each Thai worker who returns so they can clear any debts owed to job brokers or use the money to pursue other careers, Mr Phiphat said.

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