11 July 2024

It was fortunate that Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara quickly issued a new statement clarifying Thailand’s position on the Palestine-Israeli conflict. Parnpree reiterated that Thailand’s position is clear, that we are neutral, as we do not have sufficient information. We do, however, condemn acts of violence, which are unacceptable to us.”

Thailand has a consistent policy of supporting a two-state solution in the Middle East, as advocated by the United Nations.

The latest figures show that the conflict between the Israeli and Hamas have caused more than one thousand casualties on both sides. Among them were 18 Thai workers who were caught in the cross-fire. The government is sending aircraft to evacuate Thais who wish to return home. Some of them have already arrived. There are additional 3,000 Thais who want to fly home. Some want to move to safer locations, so that that they can return to work when the conflict subsides. The government has pledged to speak to their respective employers about taking them back.

According to the latest figures quoted by AFP, Hamas is holding around 150 people as hostages, including 11 Thai nationals. The group has also threatened to execute civilian captives one by one should Israel continue its air strikes on Gaza. Indeed, the current has crisis raised some key issues about Thailand’s ability and capacity to protect is people overseas, especially in conflict zones.

After all, this is not the first time that Thais working overseas have been caught in the cross-fire. It has happened frequently during previous rocket attacks by Hamas. Several Thais were killed or injured, but not as many as this time. It is therefore imperative for the government, in the coming days and weeks, to prepare those wishing to stay and work there for the danger and other contingency plans. Interviews with Thais there indicate that they lack an understanding of the security environment and broad implications of their presence in Southern Israel.

Above all and from now on Thailand must be placed on a high alert, because the country has always been a hub for transit of transnational militant groups. The security apparatus must watch over critical infrastructure, especially in tourist areas and people who are considered enemies of Hamas. In the past fifty years, Thailand has witnessed and experienced spill-over effects from the problems in the Middle East. Therefore, this conflict is a real wake-up call for the government to do more to protect the lives of Thais overseas.

Obviously, Thai workers are welcome to work in the kibbutzim spread out across Israel, as they are diligent and peaceful. From now on, however, their safety is not guaranteed. They must be warned ahead of time about the risks. At the moment, they have effectively replaced Palestinian workers in the conflict area, which is considered one of the most dangerous places in the world.

We must make sure that the Thai workers do not become collateral damage in the enduring Israel-Palestine conflict.

By Kavi Chongkittavorn