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Govt demands that Thai workers be moved from risky areas in Israel

A group of Muslims stage a protest against Israel

A group of Muslims stage a protest against Israel

Body of Nan native to be flown back on Monday; ban on more Thais going

Thailand has demanded that Israel move Thai workers away from fighting near the Gaza Strip to safer areas and asked employers to allow people to stop working temporarily without conditions, Sumeth Mahosot, chief of the Labour Ministry's Employment Department, said yesterday.

The Thai Embassy in Tel Aviv has demanded that workers be relocated about 20 kilometres away from the Strip, Sumeth said.

"Our embassy also asked that employers allow Thai workers to stop working unconditionally if the situation is too risky."

The government will continue blocking Thais from going to work in Israel as fierce fighting continues and has already claimed the life of one worker, he said.

The Labour Ministry has prevented a total of 74 Thais from going to work in Israel since Monday and decided to extend the ban until the situation returns to normal, he said.

He spoke after meeting with Jeffrey Labovitz, head of the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) in Thailand. Sumeth said he asked Labovitz to help oversee compensation for Narakorn Kittiyangkul, a Thai worker killed when a mortar shell landed in Ashkelon on Wednesday. The IOM rep agreed to help, he said.

In a related development, permanent secretary for labour affairs Jeerasak Sukhonthachart said some 300 Thai workers had asked to be moved out of risky areas and those who wanted to join the group later were welcome, adding that there were about 4,000 Thais in the "red zone".

"I recently had a telephone conversation with Israeli Ambassador to Thailand Simon Roded. We agreed that we would contact each other often to learn about the situation in Israel. The ambassador said his government would make the best efforts to take care of Thai workers," Jeerasak said.

He would ask the Israeli Embassy to check reports that some employers forced Thais to continue working despite an alert of air strikes.

"I wish to tell Thai workers to give priority to their safety. They have to follow warnings from their bosses," he said.

Meanwhile, Narakorn's body will be flown home and is expected to arrive in Bangkok on Monday, his sister Wanpen Ya-ood said, citing the Thai Foreign Ministry's Consular Department.

He was the third civilian killed in Israel since the start of an operation by the government to halt a barrage of rockets from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. He succumbed to wounds after being flown by helicopter to Barzilai Medical Centre in the south of Israel.

Narakorn went to work in Israel only a month ago, believing that his income as a taxi driver in Bangkok was insufficient to support his large family.

Wanpen said the authorities would provide a van to transfer his body back to his home in Nan. She said Consular Affairs officials had informed her that the Israeli government would pay compensation for his death, while both the Israeli and Thai governments would ask Thai workers in Israel to move to safer areas as violence escalates.

The Royal Thai Embassy in Tel Aviv estimates there are 4,276 Thais living and working in areas that are at risk. The embassy has asked them to move to safer locations.

Prasithiporn Wetprasit, deputy head of the Consular Department, said the Foreign Ministry had prepared evacuation plans in the event of emergency.

"By land, the workers will travel across the border to Egypt or Jordan or by sea, where they can board ships to Greece or Cyprus. To go by air, they would go to a nearby country before boarding planes," he said.

However, so far, no workers had asked to return to Thailand.




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