BANGKOK — More than a hundred Thais, including students, in the United States are pleading to be allowed to travel back to their homeland.
The 120 Thais, led by Arattha Boonwattasunthorn, submitted a letter to the Thai Consular Office in New York on Friday. The government earlier this week decided to extend the ban on inbound commercial flights until the end of April to prevent the imported cases of coronavirus infections.
Many of them are students residing in New York City, which has become one of the world’s worst hit areas. They said they want a special chartered flight to take them home as soon as possible.
The group said many students are running out of money and they are at severe risk of infections, particularly those in New York. They added that since they are not American citizens, their access to U.S. healthcare is very limited.
Some of them were also traveling to the US when the ban was implemented, with their travel visa about to expire. Others were those who lost their jobs in the US due to the economic impact of the lockdown.
The call for help came as about a hundred Thai exchange students are expected to arrive in Thailand on Saturday via a special flight.
The Thai Embassy is also organizing a Thai Airways flight to fly stranded Thais who urgently need to return home on April 26. Those wanting to travel must pay for their own travel fare and are willing to accept 14 days of state-run quarantine.
As many as over 10,000 Thais who wish to return home are still stranded abroad including countries like Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Sweden.
Thailand’s reluctance to open its border for its own citizens is criticized by some on social media as inhumane and even possibly unconstitutional. Government critics also contrasted it to efforts by other countries to evacuate their citizens form Thailand amid the virus lockkdowns.
For instance, Swedish Ambassador to Thailand Staffan Herrstrom posted on his Facebook Friday that 95 Swedish nationals have boarded a FinnAir flight from Suvarnabhumi Airport bound for home.