Thailand’s government said on Thursday that over 15,000 Thais are waiting to be repatriated after the country shut down its borders, leaving its citizens stranded overseas.
According to government spokesman, Dr Thaweesin Visanuyothin, over 5,000 Thais were waiting to return to the country by air once Thailand’s airspace reopens at the end of April.
Over 10,000 Thais were also stuck on the Thai-Malay border due to border closures and waiting to return. Thailand’s southern provinces along the Malay border is the hardest hit area in the country outside of the Bangkok Metropolitan area. Many of the infections stem from religious retreats and festivals in Indonesia and Malaysia. The three southern provinces are predominantly Muslim.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 14,464 Thai citizens have registered to be repatriated.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha told Thais waiting to be repatriated that it may be better for them to ‘shelter-in-place’ in their countries of residence than risk coming back.
“Rather than go through a sleepless wait and the possibility of catching the disease on the way back, the prime minister urges those Thais not in dire situations to stay in their country of residence than return home,” said Dr Thaweesin.
Thais living in Europe may be more comfortable staying in place instead of coming back, the spokesman said.
Dr Thaweesin said that Thais living abroad and unable to return will be given a subsidy by the government until they are able to be repatriated.
“If you are in a dire situation, we are looking into ways we can provide assistance via a subsidy so that you can survive,” he said.
Details about the subsidy were not revealed.
The spokesman added that the government was looking into ways of repatriating its citizens including emergency flights but details were not expanded upon.
The spokesman said that Thailand currently has only 2,000 rooms for state-quarantine measures meaning that it has to increase its capacity before citizens could return.
“We are trying to protect over 60 million people at home currently, so please if it is possible to continue to stay overseas,” he said.
The government said that it will bring in some students studying overseas from India, Japan, and Singapore later this month.