Thai workers 'not in the war' in Middle East

Thai workers 'not in the war' in Middle East

Rumours of fighting Hamas are 'false'

Israeli soldiers walk through rubble, amid the ongoing ground invasion against Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip, on Nov 8, 2023. (Photo: Reuters)
Israeli soldiers walk through rubble, amid the ongoing ground invasion against Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip, on Nov 8, 2023. (Photo: Reuters)

The Foreign Affairs Ministry denies reports that some Thai workers have been recruited by the Israeli military to engage in fighting against Hamas.

Thai-Israelis with dual citizenship are serving in the Israeli army reserve, but no Thai workers have been recruited by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), according to the ministry.

The ministry's remarks followed reports spreading on social media that Thai workers were being hired to fight for the Israeli army.

The ministry said on Wednesday that some 400-500 Thai women are known to have married Israeli men, with their offspring having dual citizenship.

The Thai embassy in Tel Aviv reported that these dual nationals were members of the Israeli army reserve.

By law, all Israeli citizens are drafted at the age of 18, regardless of gender. The men must serve for 32 months and the women for 24 months. After that they remain members of the Israeli army reserve.

Since the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct 7, the IDF has mobilised more than 350,000 reservists, or about 4% of the population, the ministry said.

Thais with dual citizenship were among those army reservists. There were no Thai workers in the Israeli army as claimed, according to the ministry.

It said people should not spread fake news as it can create misunderstandings, both in Thailand and overseas.

Previously, Lt Gen Pongsakorn Rodchompoo, a former deputy secretary-general of the National Security Council who has been tracking the conflict in the Gaza Strip, said only Thai labourers had been working near the conflict zones there, which may raise suspicions among Hamas that some of the workers could be mercenaries.

However, he insisted the Thai nationals are normal workers just trying to earn a living.

Thirachai Saenkaew, chairman of a House subcommittee monitoring Thai workers affected by the Israel-Gaza war, discussed the situation with the Department of Employment and the Department of Consular Affairs on Wednesday.

A source at the meeting said the consular affairs officials informed the subpanel that while the war is intensifying, safe zones remain, such as those near the Arabah desert which borders Israel and Jordan.

The officials told the subcommittee that Israel's minister of agriculture and rural development has invited the Thai ambassador for a discussion about how many Thai workers have returned home so Israel can hire replacements from Sri Lanka, the source added.

However, the Israeli minister expressed hope that more Thai workers would opt to stay in Israel as he guaranteed they can continue to work in the safe zones, the source quoted the consular affairs officials as saying.

The 20,000 Thai workers who remain in Israel are located far from the conflict zones, the source added.

The Israeli minister tried to convince the Thai side to reconsider repatriating the Thai workers, but he was met with the reply that Thai workers will return once the violence has de-escalated, the officials were quoted as saying.

According to figures, there were about 30,000 Thai workers in Israel before the Oct 7 cross-border raids by Hamas.

They play an important role in the agricultural sector there. Some 8,000 have since been repatriated.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported on Monday that over 20,000 Thai workers have chosen to stay despite the worsening conflict.

According to the Department of Employment, some 6,661 Thai returnees have applied for compensation from the Labour Ministry's welfare fund for workers abroad.

The ministry has approved 2,386 applications worth more than 35 million baht.

Labour Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn 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.

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