Fate of Lao Nationals Hangs in Balance Amid Escalating Israel-Palestine Conflict, Officials Postpone Study Trip to Israel

A view of the rubble of a building in Gaza City after it was struck by Israel. (Picture/AP)

Additional reporting by Phontham Visapra

Officials in Laos have agreed to postpone travel to Israel for a group of some 38 university students bound for Israel amid the escalating violence in the country.

Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Education and Sports Sourioudong Sundara confirmed the 119 Lao citizens who are currently in the Middle Eastern nation are safe.

A recent Party meeting agreed to a motion put forth by education officials to postpone the Israel trip as conflict escalated between Israel and Palestinian Hamas militants, according to a Facebook post by Deputy Minister of Education and Sports, Sourioudong Sundara.

Hamas fighters launched a surprise incursion into Israel on 7 October, breaching a border security fence and indiscriminately firing on Israeli civilians. Thousands have been killed and hundreds taken hostage, including 21 Thai nationals and at least one Cambodian.

While the government of Laos has yet to make an announcement regarding the status of its citizens in the country, Sourioudong ensured his fellow nationals that the 119 Lao employees and students in Israel are currently safe. But it remains uncertain whether efforts have been made to repatriate the Lao nationals. No injuries and deaths have been reported.

Somboun Khan, president of the Islamic Organization in Laos, told The Laotian Times that, to his knowledge, there are currently no Lao-Muslims in the Palestine-Israel war zone. He emphasized that there have been no official reports indicating otherwise. However, due to the sensitivity of the issue, President Khan was unable to provide further details.

In this uncertain times, the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on the conflict last week, urging all parties to exercise utmost restraint, cease all acts of violence, and jointly resolve the conflict by peaceful means.

Laos and Israel formally established ties in 1993, with Israel hosting cohorts of Lao agricultural vocational students every year.

Meanwhile, Thailand has been evacuating its citizens from Israel. However, of those affected by the attacks, only 15 managed to reach Thailand safely. 

Prime Minister Srettha is actively coordinating with Nok Air and AirAsia airlines to facilitate the return of the remaining Thai citizens. Various evacuation strategies are under consideration, including the use of ships, though safety concerns surrounding navigation through Gaza pose significant challenges. As an alternative, authorities are exploring options such as evacuations by land through Jordan.