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Thai group fleeing Libya to take flight home today

Envoy, others reach safety in Tunisia

A GROUP of Thai evacuees from unrest-plagued Libya will fly home today, General Tanasak Patima-pragorn, a deputy chief of the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), said yesterday.

The evacuees' flight will depart Tunisia, where they arrived yesterday evening.

Foreign Ministry's permanent secretary Sihasak Phuangketkeow, meanwhile, said his ministry would try to book commercial flights for Thai evacuees. However, if necessary, the ministry might ask the Air Force to prepare an evacuation operation.

Tanasak said a C-130 military transport plane would be on standby.

Sihasak said the Thai Embassy in Tripoli continued operating, even though the ambassador and his Thai staff had already reached Tunisia, where operation centres facilitating the evacuation of all Thais will be set up.

"Local staff are still working at the Thai mission in Tripoli," he said. "They will cooperate closely with the centres we are about to open [in Djerba and Tunis]."

Thongchai Chasawath, director-general of the Consular Affairs Department, leaves Thailand early this morning with officials from the Foreign and Labour ministries to open the centres in Tunis and Djerba.

As per the Foreign Ministry's Information Department, it would take about a month to bring the 1,400-1,500 Thais living in Libya back.

Thais are being advised to leave the North African country as the unrest there shows no signs of abating. Those working or living in areas closest to battlefields get first priority.

The Labour Ministry, meanwhile, has promised to protect the welfare of the evacuated Thai workers.

In another troubled area, the Thai Embassy in Israel has already brought at least 82 Thai workers out of risky zones near the Gaza Strip, leaving 13 waiting for their turn, while 21 have expressed the intention to stay.

Out of concern for the Thai workers' safety, the embassy has encouraged them to contact the office if they want to get temporary jobs in less dangerous zones.

Thai workers who agree to withdraw from the risky zones can get temporary placements via designated channels and they will be paid no less than what is required under Israeli law.

The embassy is available around the clock to serve them.

When the situation in their former workplace improves, they can return to their old employers.

The embassy has asked Israeli authorities to move Thai workers away from locations within 20 kilometres of the Gaza Strip.


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