Anutin’s Pledge to Evac Thais Tomorrow is Still Unconfirmed

A file photo of tourists wearing face masks at Suvarnabhumi Airport.
A file photo of tourists wearing face masks at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

BANGKOK — Thai evacuees from China’s Wuhan city are expected to land and be quarantined at a naval base outside Bangkok, navy chief said Monday.

Adm. Luechai Rutdit said the navy-owned U-Tapao Airport and the adjacent Satthahip Naval Base in Chonburi are ready to host the returnees upon their arrival from Wuhan, which has been put on lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak. The government has made contradicting statements when the 160 Thais living in Wuhan would be evacuated.

“Everything is all set should the government decide to use our facilities to quarantine Thai evacuees,” Luechai said. “We expect to accommodate them at the base’s lodges. If any of them get ill, we can also send them to the base’s hospital.”

The timeline for the evacuation itself remains in doubt.

Health minister Anutin Charnvirakul on Sunday told reporters the Chinese authorities had allowed Thailand to fly its plane to Wuhan and begin the evacuation on Tuesday.

But officials now said his statement is yet to be confirmed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who is due to finalize the plan at a meeting later this afternoon.


Earlier on Friday morning, deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan said the flight would arrive in Wuhan on the following day, only to be disputed by fellow deputy PM Anutin later that same day. Anutin said the Chinese authorities had yet to grant Thailand permission to land.

U-Tapao Airport, about 40 kilometers from the resort town of Pattaya, is one of the three landing sites the government is considering for the evacuation from Wuhan. The other two options are Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Mueang Airport, which are closer to the capital.

A number of countries have retrieved their citizens from Wuhan including South Korea, Japan, Turkey, the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, India, and most recently Myanmar and Indonesia.

About 160 Thai evacuees will be put on isolation for 14 days, Anutin said.