11 July 2024

The evacuation of Thai nationals from Israel is gaining momentum after the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) has been granted permission for overflights by ten countries en route to Israel, with the first RTAF Airbus 340-500 aircraft having left Bangkok shortly after midnight this morning (Sunday).

The aircraft is scheduled to arrive at the military section of Don Mueang airport at about 4.40am on Monday morning carrying 137 evacuees.

According to the RTAF, the ten countries which have granted overflights are Laos, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, Cyrus and Israel. The RTAF plans six flights to pick up Thais who want to return to home for their safety.

More than 7,000 of the roughly 30,000 Thais working in Israel, mostly in the agricultural sector, have applied to fly home.

An informed RTAF source said that they have approached Thai Airways International, seeking pilots who have served in the RTAF and have experience of flying the Airbus 340 aircraft to help in the evacuation plan, because it does not have sufficient pilots, who must be rotated for the long flight between Israel and Thailand through the airspaces of nine other countries.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin is scheduled to hold a meeting of the Rapid Response Centre at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at 4pm this afternoon.

The Thai embassy in Tel Aviv has arranged for a hotel in the Israeli capital, to be used as a temporary shelter for Thai evacuees.

Meanwhile, a third group of 90 Thais, including 88 men and two women, were flown back to Thailand before dawn today(Sunday) from Dubai. The Fly Dubai flight touched down at U-Tapao airport in Chon Buri province at about 5.40am.

Among those arriving were three injured Thais, who were given first-aid treatment before being bussed to a hotel in Bangkok’s Wang Thong Lang district, where their families were waiting to greet them.

One of the injured, 35-year-old Natthapong Nuanchan, told Thai PBS that he was sleeping in his living quarters on a farm when he was awoken by the sound of sirens and ran towards a bunker, but was hit in the leg by shrapnel.

He said that he had worked at a farm in Israel for four years and he still has one year left under the employment contract, but he will not return to Israel due to the constant terrorist threat.