Gov’t Tells 10,000+ Thais Marooned Overseas to Stay Abroad

A group of Thai returnees sleep on seats at Haneda Airport on April 7, 2020. Photo: Natcha Lapaaneknan / Facebook
A group of Thai returnees sleep on seats at Haneda Airport on April 7, 2020. Photo: Natcha Lapaaneknan / Facebook

BANGKOK — The government on Thursday said more than 10,000 Thais stranded abroad should only come home if it is absolutely necessary.

Taweesin Visanuyothin, spokesman of the Center for the COVID-19 Situation Administration, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that 5,473 Thais have signed up to be repatriated by air amid a ban on inbound flights, while another group of 10,000 Thais who expressed wishes to enter Thailand via land borders.

But Taweesin said he’d like them to stay put.

“I ask Thais who wish to return from abroad to stay where they are unless travel is absolutely necessary. Every journey requires passage through high-risk places,” Taweesin said. 

“However, the government welcomes all returnees,” he added. “There are more than 10,000 Thais who signed up for repatriation and they are required to strictly follow government’s measures once they arrive.”

According to the latest policy, passengers are required to present a health certificate and quarantine themselves at their origin countries for 14 days before boarding planes to Thailand. Once they arrive, they must also spend another 14 days at a state quarantine facility.

Taweesin said authorities are looking for ways to increase state quarantine capacity, which is currently limited to 2,497 rooms, or around 13,000 people.

“The Prime Minister insisted the returnees must be informed of what they are required to do before coming back,” the spokesman said. “We are discussing state quarantine measures. As of now, we are able to handle about 200 returnees per day.”

The government is also planning to provide subsidies to Thais who are struggling to return home, but they are still deciding on the exact figure to be given, Taweesin said.

Over the past week, photos of Thais sleeping in airport terminals emerged online following the government’s abrupt announcement on international flight suspension.

A group of 32 Thais had to spend four days at Tokyo Haneda Airport after the final leg of their flights to Thailand was canceled. The Thai embassy in Tokyo provided them assistance and supplies before they were eventually allowed to fly back home on Wednesday.

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