Conflicts & War

Despite danger and amid economic hardship, Thai workers yearn for Israel

By Gaspar Ruiz-Canela and Piyapon Poottima

Thai Ban, Thailand, Feb 9 (EFE).- Kratchakorn Buddhasorn returned to Thailand shortly after being wounded in an attack on Israel by Islamist group Hamas on Oct. 7, but now wants to return due to debt and job insecurity he faces in his own country.

His is not an isolated case. Many Thai workers go into debt to be able to go to Israel to work as seasonal laborers in the fields and now some of those repatriated after Hamas’ attack want to return to earn more money and save.

Kratchakorn, 42, told EFE that four months after returning to his country, he can barely make ends meet with a job as a delivery driver for convenience store franchise, in which he earns a base salary of THB500 ($14) per day plus THB15 per order.

“In Thailand we don’t have enough money and we don’t make ends meet. At least by working abroad we earn an amount of money that covers expenses,” he said in an interview at home in Samut Prakan, a province bordering Bangkok.

The man, who worked on a vegetable farm in Israel, lives in this house with his wife and four other tenants, while his three children aged 9, 12 and 13 are in the care of their maternal grandparents in the northeast of the country.

Kratchakorn accumulated debts for a car and expenses for his children, in addition to a THB150,000 bank loan to cover the application to go to Israel, including medical exams, translations and plane tickets.

Although authorities advise Thais in Israel to return home, he believes the situation in the country is safer now and salaries are higher than in Thailand.

Kratchakorn was working on a farm in the Israeli village of Mavki’im, about 8 kilometers north of the Gaza Strip, when a Hamas rocket struck on Oct. 7.

“A colleague called our boss and (he) told us to stop working and that he was going to take us to a safe place,” says Kratchakorn, who before traveling to Israel worked in a vehicle parts factory.

“When we were going toward the camp right next to the road, there was gunfire and I was shot in the knee,” said the man, who was fleeing in a van with about 10 people.

Another of the occupants was shot in the leg, a third in the arm, and a fourth was hit in the face and as a result lost sight in one eye, although in the end, they reached safety.

Kratchakorn, who had been in Israel for a year and three months picking tomatoes and cucumbers, says that his injury was not serious, but that the hospital was short of medicine, and he decided to return to Thailand on a flight that arrived on Oct. 12.

The Thai government promised THB50,000 in emergency aid to returnees, but Kratchakorn said he has only received THB15,000 so far.

In this situation, the worker has requested to return to Israel to finish his five-year and three-month contract, since there he can earn THB50,000-70,000 if he works extra hours on Saturdays and Sundays.

“The application is in process, but I still don’t know when I will be able to return,” the worker said, sitting on the floor in the humble living room of his home, with just one piece of furniture, an armchair, a couple of fans and a few other belongings.

At the time of the Hamas offensive there were about 30,000 Thais in Israel, mostly agricultural workers, and they were one of the groups of foreigners most affected by the violence.

The attack left more than 1,200 dead, including 39 Thais, and more than 240 hostages were taken to Gaza, including 32 Thais. Nine thousand Thai workers have been repatriated.

Israel declared war on Hamas the day of the attack and its offensive in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza has already killed more than 27,000 and left some 47,000 injured, most of them women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry. EFE


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