Thai Foreign Minister explains why Government cannot rush Wuhan evacuation
In an effort to answer those who have accused the Thai government of being slow to evacuate its citizens from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the origin of the growing coronavirus outbreak, Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai said today (Sunday) that it is not a competition to see which country will be the first to evacuate their citizens. Instead, it is a matter of ensuring that Thai citizens there are safe and free from the virus when they return to Thailand.
Starting with the lockdown of Wuhan on January 26th, Don said the Chinese government has been seeking cooperation from friendly countries in applying restrictions to control the spread of the virus, to which Thailand responded positively, prompting Chinese authorities to promiseto take good care of Thai people stuck in Wuhan.
While monitoring the situation in China, Don said the Thai government chartered a commercial flight for the evacuation and created a WeChat network between those stuck in Wuhan, the Thai embassy in Beijing and Thai medical staff.
He said that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is fully aware of the situation and has instructed authorities to be ready to evacuate as soon as there is a greenlight from the Chinese government, who made clear from the beginning that it did not favour mass evacuation of foreigners due to concerns of a further spread of the virus, but have finally agreed.
Finally, on January 28th, Japan and the US, which have consular offices in Wuhan, were allowed to airlift their citizens out of the closed city.
Don went on to say that, originally, there were only 64 Thais, including 49 students and 15 tourists, seeking evacuation, but the number eventually increased to 160.
The foreign minister noted that the students all live in the same locale in Wuhan, so could prepare to leave quickly. Meanwhile, other Thais there are scattered around the city and require detailed coordination to bring them together for the airlift, using very limited local transport.
In Bangkok, special preparations also had to be made, including appropriate personnel, medical equipment and the chartered flight, said Don.
He pointed out that rushing the evacuation could result in some Thais missing the flight or other serious problems, whereas the most important goal is for “them (evacuees) to be safe, not sick and have enough food.”
“Please understand the situation, don’t panic. Be unified and supportive of a friendly country in trouble, understanding their difficulties at a critical juncture. There is nothing more valuable than understanding an ally in need and the provision of prudent reciprocity,” said Don.