FM not urging Israelis to leave Thailand

El Al is still flying in, despite violence.

May 21, 2010 00:25
2 minute read.


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Despite the violence and curfews in Thailand, the Foreign Ministry is not calling on Israelis to leave the country, nor has it received any requests for an emergency evacuation of those Israelis – estimated at a few thousand – still in there.

“There is no recommendation to leave Thailand,” Ambassador to Thailand Yitzhak Shoham told Israel Radio on Thursday.

Rather, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling on those Israelis in Thailand to avoid Bangkok and some 23 districts in the north where the rioting is concentrated. It is also called on those going ahead with plans to go to Thailand to avoid those areas, as well as to be cautious and use their judgment regarding where to travel inside the strife-torn country.

One Foreign Ministry official stressed that the rebels have nothing against Israel or Israelis, and were not targeting foreigners.

This particular political conflict is largely seen as a class struggle between the rural poor, supporters of ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and the Thai military and its well-off urban supporters. Diplomatic officials said that the discord was unlikely to have any impact on Israeli-Thai relations.

Foreign Ministry sources said there is no plan to evacuate the dozen Israelis connected to the embassy in Bangkok. The sources also said that Bangkok’s airport, which serves as a regional hub, has not been impacted by the violence, and that despite the curfew clamped on Bangkok, tourists with the proper documentation and plane tickets are allowed through to the airport.

El Al, the sources said, is continuing with its daily flights to the Thai capital. Foreign Ministry officials said that despite the violence and the curfew, there were few hysterical calls into the ministry’s situation room, with most of the nearly 200 callers Thursday by 4 p.m. asking whether or not it was safe to travel to the country.

According to Foreign Ministry figures, some 120,000 to 140,000 Israelis, many of them young backpackers, travel to Thailand each year. The peak tourist season, however, is in the winter, from October to April, not now.

Some 50 countries, including Israel, have travel advisories out regarding Thailand, with the Israeli advisory more moderate than others.

Washington, for example, has advised against all travel to Bangkok, and all non-essential travel to the rest of the country.

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