Thais in Libya to be evacuated

The National Council for Peace and Order has ordered an immediate evacuation of all 1,500 Thais from high-risk areas in Libya as the fighting between government forces and rival militants escalates.

Nutthavudh Potisaro, foreign deputy permanent secretary, said the first evacuation will start within 48 hours from the riskiest areas in Tripoli. Eleven Thai students and 30 workers are reported living in Tripoli.

The decision came after an urgent meeting on Monday at the Foreign Ministry with related agencies such as the Labour Ministry's Employment Department, Thai Airways International, and related military units under the order of the NCPO.

Ambassador in Tripoli Krittirat Na Ranong agreed the current situation was posing danger to people's lives and property. Many countries, including the Philippines, have started pulling out their citizens from Libya, said Mr Nutthavudh, adding that the Thai government has suggested all Thais leave the country.

"The meeting determined that the escalating tension between the two conflicting sides is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. The ministry will consider whether to close the Thai embassy if the situation gets worse,'' said Mr Nutthavudh.

About 70 Thais living in Albeda and Bengasi will become the second group to be evacuated, with the rest moved based on circumstances in each region.

Mr Nutthavuth said the Foreign Ministry is coordinating with Tunisia to evacuate the Thais to Jeba off Tunisia, 150 km from the Libyan border before returning them to Thailand through airports in Jeba and Tunis.

At least 10 staffers from the Employment Department and doctors from Royal Thai army will be deployed to Tunisia to take care of them, he added.

The families of the Thai diplomats have been lifted with embassy staff set to be the last group to leave the country.

The Foreign Ministry's South Asian Department will set up a monitoring center at its department, starting July 29.

Meanwhile, Jukr Boon-long, Thai ambassador to Israel, said the Thai embassy has advised Thai labourers to suspend their work or change jobs temporarily while negotiating with their employers to return to their work after the situation returns to normal.

Speaking to the reporter by phone, Mr Jukr said 65 out of 500 Thai workers working in the danger zones 20km from the Gaza Strip have requested to be relocated voluntarily.

Of these, seven have returned to Thailand while another 13 have been moved to new areas.

"The Thai embassy will move another 30 Thai workers from high-risk areas, as some of them have changed their mind about leaving,'' said Mr Jukr.

In addition, another 3,500 Thai workers working outside 20km radius can also be relocated if they request it, he said.

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