Ambassador Suchitra Durai in a video conference with Indian community representatives in Thailand. Photograph:( WION Web Team )
Speaking exclusively to our Principal Diplomatic Correspondent Sidhant Sibal from Bangkok, the Indian envoy said 1600 Indians have registered for repatriation for which India is expected to send 7-8 flights.
India's envoy to Thailand Suchitra Durai has lauded Thailand's handling of the COVID crisis and said India has brought to notice to Thailand about India's ASEAN scholarships which can be "used under the current situation". Speaking exclusively to our Principal Diplomatic Correspondent Sidhant Sibal from Bangkok, the Indian envoy said 1600 Indians have registered for repatriation for which India is expected to send 7-8 flights.
WION: How is the Indian mission reaching to stranded Indians in the country? Any plans of repatriation? Any Indian infected with COVID.
Suchitra Durai: We have been reaching out to all the Indians who have been here, directly and our social media. In April, launched an online portal for registration of Indian nationals who are stranded in Thailand. We have 1600 Indians who have registered themselves in our portal. Not all of those who have registered are stranded, some of them have resident visas and want to go to India, this the number of people who are currently interested in going to India. We have people working very closely with Indian community associations, many working with groups of people. Some had a problem finding accommodation, some food, so we had supplied them dry rations, some cooked food ether via gurudwara, mosque and temples. In some cases, they are absolutely destitute from the embassies fund have helped people from the embassy's funds, both in terms of food and shelter. I have given a recorded message, given status in India as well as Thailand. Then in addition, we have done a number of video conference calls, and this extends for everyone, even those in detention centres. For example, we have done VC calls to find out about there welfare, on Tuesday I had a long detailed VC calls with representatives of Indian community organisations which was also very useful to both sides. Our first repatriation flight is expected to take place very shortly so at the mission we are working very hard to ensure that it is very successful.
WION: How are India and Thailand cooperating on COVID pandemic?
Suchitra Durai: On the first of May, PM Modi had a telephonic conversation with the Thai PM and it was a detailed telephonic conversation and both sides shared all the steps they are taking to deal with COVID. Also, both sides talked about how they can cooperate in research and development in the medical area. PM Modi also assured Thailand, any medical support needed by Thailand during this time, India will be happy to facilitate it. Our relations are very warm, historic and very close and the fact, Thailand is our maritime neighbour is a very important aspect, so the bilateral aspect we have underlined the areas. In the ASEAN context, we have offered 1000 slots for post doctorial fellowships and some of these are in targetted drugs, robotics, this is the time. Thailand is one of the 10 countries who will be facilitated through post-doctoral fellowship. We have brought this to the notice of the Thai side and emphasised young researchers on both sides can work in all these areas and this is will be used under the current situation. As far as BIMSTEC is concerned, PM has been speaking to the leadership of all the BIMSTEC countries. Not aware as a regional grouping any initiative coming up but bilaterally we have in touch with all these countries. SAARC as you know, PM had taken the initiative to launch SAARC COVID 19 emergency fund. This is how we have been working bilaterally with Thailand.
WION: Are we cooperating under BIMSTEC or ASEAN umbrella?
Suchitra Durai: Fortunately for us, Thailand has dealt with the pandemic in a very effective manner, a total number of case is 3017 cases in all and 2900 people have recovered and only 56 fatalities so far. In last 24 not single case, in last one week, it has been all in single digit. Thailand has been dealing with the pandemic very successfully, this is also shown on the ground. There was a lockdown, a night curfew, but public transport is very much available, all the essential items are fully available and they are thinking of partially opening up and from Monday there will be more opening up, so we can see a return to normalcy. It might not be normal, as in normal but certainly, be what is happening currently. We are in a fortunate situation, we have faced no problem.
WION: How has the ground situation in Thailand changed, how have Indian diplomats faring?
Suchitra Durai: We have to follow the Thai govt's regulation in what we are doing but in no manner, we have been constrained. The Thai govt has been very supportive of anything we want to do, we have reached to our community members and extended all the help. We haven't been constrained. I have been coming to work, every day, my team members have divided into 2 groups, so by rotation, we work from home, or come here. There has been absolutely no constraints, as far as movements, as far as reaching out, daily work is concerned. We have been in a fortunate situation. There were 7 Indian nationals impacted by COVID, but they have all recovered, and there was on long time resident who was an Indian passport holder had co-morbidities and passed away, apart from that no one impacted by COVID.
WION: When it comes to repatriation, how many people and flights are expected?
Suchitra Durai: We have 1600 people who have registered on our portal, expecting 7-8 repatriation flights from Thailand to India. As of now, we have got a notice for one flight which has been scheduled already. and we are expecting more flights because it concerns Indian states as well. MEA, MHA, aviation ministry, states in consultations decide and they need to provide the quartine facility because it is mandatory. Most people are willing to be patient.