New batch of Malaysians evacuated from Thailand by charter aircraft

The group of students took 43 hours to return home after Thailand imposed a lockdown from March 26 until April 30. (Bernama pic)

BANGKOK: A group of Malaysian students undergoing industrial training in the northern Thai province of Chiang Mai endured a tiring journey of almost 43 hours before arriving at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) early today.

Third-year student of Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA) Muhammad Izzat Azkwan Samudin, 22, together with his 11 university mates, had to cut short their industrial training at a food processing factory there following an alarming rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in the country.

They departed Chiang Mai at 7am last Friday in two rented vans and arrived in Bangkok at 4.30pm the same day.

According to the initial plan, they were scheduled to board the Malaysia Airlines MH783 charter flight from Bangkok to KLIA on Saturday at 5.50pm but it was delayed for almost five hours.

All of them departed from the Suvarnabhumi Airport at 10.45pm and arrived in Malaysia about 2am today.

“Although it was a long-haul journey, we are all happy and grateful to be back home,” Muhammad Izzat Azkwan told Bernama when met at the Suvarnabhumi Airport here.

Muhammad Izzat Azkwan, a Bioresources and Food Industry Faculty student who hails from Selangor, started his industrial training at the factory on Jan 19.

Also present at the Suvarnabhumi Airport to send off the Malaysians was Malaysian ambassador to Thailand Jojie Samuel.

Upon arrival at the KLIA, they were taken by bus to the quarantine centre designated by the government to undergo a 14-day quarantine before being allowed to return home.

The students were among 101 Malaysians studying and working in Thailand aboard the Malaysia Airlines special flight to return home.

The charter flight was used as many airline companies had cancelled their flights in view of the current Covid-19 situation.

Another student, Nor Amenatunajwa Md Rahim, said the 14-day quarantine period was vital to make sure that they were all free from the Covid-19 infection.

“I don’t want to be a super-spreader. By undergoing the mandatory quarantine, it will help us ensure that we are safe to return home and meet our families,” she said.

Lt Col Baharin Mohamad, from the Royal Malaysian Air Force, who is pursuing his studies at the Air War College here, said he decided to return to Malaysia for fear that the Covid-19 pandemic would take some time to subside.

“I decided to return home to be with my family, especially for the coming fasting period and Hari Raya.

“Besides that, the college is closed until April 30 due to the nationwide state of emergency,” said Baharin, who has been in Bangkok for a year.

Thailand has declared a state of emergency, which will be in effect nationwide from March 26 until April 30, in an effort to curb the Covid-19 pandemic in the kingdom.

Under the emergency decree, all shopping malls, entertainment outlets and sports venues that attract crowds have been ordered to close while supermarkets that sell food and daily necessities, markets selling fresh products, pharmacies and convenience stores will remain open.

Restaurant and cafes are also open and offer only takeaway and delivery services.

All educational institutions, including local and international schools, universities and tuition centres will also be temporarily closed.