The world has become an extremely dangerous place since February 24th 2022 with growing fears that the situation can escalate. There is also a growing realisation that this will not be a short war but an extended conflict, one that is deepening and shows signs of dividing the world even as it has united western countries and public opinion in vehement opposition to Russia and President Vladimir Putin.
Russia has warned Thai volunteers interested in serving with the Ukrainian Defence Forces on the ground in Ukraine that they will not be treated as enemy combatants and accorded the same treatment under international law if they take up arms against its army. It follows reports that scores of Thai men of fighting age, as in other countries throughout the world, visited the Ukrainian Embassy in the Lumpini area of Bangkok last week and that a LINE group of volunteers has been established for Thai nationals planning to travel to Ukraine to take up arms against the Russian invasion.
The Russian Embassy in Thailand, on Saturday, warned Thai volunteers who have indicated they are willing to fly to Ukraine and fight with the new foreign legion being recruited by the embattled government in Kyiv, that they will not be treated as enemy combatants under the Geneva Convention and other humanitarian laws.
The message was posted as an advisory from the Russian Ministry of Defence.
It comes as a Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman signalled that authorities in Thailand also do not wish Thai citizens to put their lives in jeopardy but emphasised that the priority for the government in Bangkok was repatriating Thai nationals remaining in Ukraine where some are still under fire from Russian bombardment.
Over 1.5 million people have left Ukraine, nearly all of them women and children as men stay to fight
On Friday, as fighting in Ukraine escalated further with reports that up to 1.5 million women and children had fled the country leaving men of fighting age behind to confront Russian forces, the Bangkok Post newspaper interviewed three Thai men on Witthayu Road in the embassy district of Bangkok.
They had gone there in response to a message from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who last week announced that a special international force was being established as part of the Ukrainian armed forces.
This has seen men of all ages across the world but especially from Europe, the United States and even countries like Japan, volunteer to serve at their own expense in what they see as a fight for democracy against tyranny.
One Thai man says watching the invasion as it unfolds feels like witnessing an adult bullying a child
‘We don’t want Thais to put their lives at risk,’ said Mr Tanee Sangrat of the Foreign Ministry in Bangkok on Saturday in response to the reports and the growing interest from Thailand.
One of the men interviewed was 39-year-old Dej, a volunteer from Narathiwat province.
He told reporters that he had been following the news via Thai and international news sources on what was happening in Ukraine since the invasion by Russian forces from nearly all directions on February 24th 2022.
He said it reminded him of an adult bullying a young child.
‘I hate to see strong people harassing weak ones. I am ready to quit as a volunteer ranger and fly to Ukraine if I am recruited to join the fight,’ he declared.
Dej told reporters that he was trained in the use of weapons but needs to find the money to finance his trip to Ukraine where he hopes to join the Ukrainian Defence Forces.
Another volunteer, a retired 44-year-old soldier in the Thai army who has served in the Deep South, Sa-nguan Monlakhon, said on Wednesday he wanted to fight as he loathed bullying.
‘I want to join the force because of my democratic ideology. I hate bullying,’ he explained as he waited to volunteer.
Real fears of a World War as UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss draws a red line for Russia in Lithuania
Another 39-year-old, Tack from Phetchabun province, said he was ready to travel to Ukraine but at the same time, he said he did not want to see the current conflict escalate into a world war.
The threats coming from Russian President Vladimir Putin at the outset of this invasion, and even more pointedly in recent days on the question of control of the airspace over Ukraine, has dramatically increased the stakes.
On Thursday, in Lithuania, thought to be the next most vulnerable country in the Russian leader’s sights, the UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who has become a bête noire of senior Russian officials, speaking in the capital Vilnius, said that the UK’s commitment to defending NATO countries was ‘unyielding’ and any action by Moscow against its allies would see the United Kingdom at war with Russia.
Ms Truss has also suggested that this conflict will be an extended one for many years.
UK Defence Minister disassociates himself from UK Foreign Secretary’s comments supporting volunteers
Ms Truss said that the allies ‘must ensure that Putin fails in this horrific enterprise’ so that the Russian leader goes no further.
World lives in fear – UK Minister says Putin may not be in his ‘right mind’ as Thursday’s invasion goes awry
Ms Truss has raised eyebrows, even in the United Kingdom, by her jingoistic comments and tacit support for British volunteers with combat experience volunteering to serve in Ukraine with UK Defence Minister Ben Wallace MP, who last week questioned Vladimir Putin’s mental health, disassociating himself from what she said.
At least 20 Thai nationals visited the Ukrainian Embassy in Bangkok in just one day to volunteer
On Thursday, there were reported to be at least 20 Thai nationals who visited the Ukrainian Embassy in Bangkok to find out more about how to volunteer for the war in Ukraine.
One of these was 31-year-old Golf, a former conscript in the Royal Thai Army who told reporters that he obtained the information he required which he would pass on to friends.
It also emerged that a special LINE group has been established among potential Thai volunteers eager to serve the beleaguered nation.
A notice at the embassy appealed to applicants to submit information detailing their prior military experience and training to the Second Secretary of the Ukrainian Embassy for review.
Embassy officials were reportedly asking all volunteers to make contact via email to streamline the vetting and screening process.
The displayed information made it quite clear that the mission is a voluntary one and that all expenses involved must be paid by those signing up.
The embassy also categorically rejected claims that those who fought in the war will be awarded Ukrainian citizenship for their efforts.
Message from Ukrainian President Zelensky to ‘citizens of the world’ inviting foreign volunteers to fight to save his country from Russian aggression
The Embassy is carrying the message from President Zelensksy last week which has prompted the rush of volunteers worldwide.
‘The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy is addressing all citizens of the world, friends of Ukraine, peace and democracy. Anyone who wants to join the defence of Ukraine, Europe and the world can come and fight side by side with the Ukrainians against Russia,’ it reads. ‘Foreigners have the right to join the Armed Forces of Ukraine for military service under a contract of a voluntary basis to be included in the Territorial Defence Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. A separate subdivision is being formed of foreigners entitled the International Legion for the Territorial Defence of Ukraine. There is no greater contribution you can make for the sake of peace. For enrolment and details please contact the Defence Attaché of the Embassy of Ukraine in your country.’
Prime Minister hails work to repatriate Thai nationals in Ukraine and co-operation among ASEAN countries
On Saturday, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha hailed the efforts to bring back Thai nationals from the conflict in Ukraine and in particular the co-operation between Thai officials and those of Singapore, the Philippines and ASEAN.
It is understood that over a dozen Thai nationals remain in the war-torn country who officials are anxiously trying to extract.
By Saturday evening, most had already returned on flights from Poland and Switzerland after being taken by bus from transit centres within Ukraine.
A spokesman for General Prayut said: ‘The Prime Minister would like to express his gratitude and encouragement to all sectors that are working together to help the Thai brothers and sisters in Ukraine quickly. It is urgent work during stressful situations. We appreciate the kindness and the friendship that Thai people have for their close neighbours and ASEAN members such as the Philippines and Singapore in times of hardship.’
Most of the Thais returning from Ukraine are women with many employed in the once flourishing Thai massage and spa industry there.
Thai woman recalls her surreal experience being driven by bus to safety through the war zone
Pornpat Leksungnern was one of 61 who flew in on an Emirates flight via Warsaw on Saturday.
Afterwards, the returnees were tested for COVID-19 and taken to the Bamrasnaradura Infectious Disease Institute in Nonthaburi for a one night stay in quarantine.
Ms Pornpat told how the situation deteriorated so quickly last week even though she knew she was being evacuated.
Based in Kyiv, one day she planned to go to work but awoke to find a city in a state of war with explosions and gunfire.
She was instructed to make her way to a shelter where she was collected by a bus which took her on a 15-hour drive to Warsaw across the border and into Poland.
She said that during the trip from Kyiv the bus was intercepted by a tank on the road and she heard shells being fired above her head.
‘Throughout the ride, I saw violent clashes,’ she confirmed.
Situation has grown more dangerous as western support for the embattled Ukrainians has gone further than planned, what was unthinkable is a possibility
There is a strong sense that this war is escalating with western allies that have already gone further than envisaged, aroused by the surprising and inspirational determination of the Ukrainian people and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who overnight on Saturday spoke with US congressional leaders.
Although NATO, at its meeting on Friday in Brussels, categorically ruled out Ukrainian calls for a no-fly zone, there are some unconfirmed reports that old jet fighters from Eastern European countries may find their way into Ukraine.
The popular support in Europe and the United States has driven the western leadership into going beyond the bounds thought possible on the eve of the invasion.
Many politicians, in both the United Kingdom and the United States, are now in favour of an oil embargo on Russia despite the huge repercussions for western economies.
The thinking is that more should be done now to stop Vladimir Putin rather than later after the world has seen what he is capable of.
The question now is whether the world may be on the eve of a World War given the cooperation between Russia and China while economic sanctions already imposed have been described as a ‘declaration of war’ by Russia.
Although this is highly unlikely, the fact that such a question is being raised at all is extremely disturbing. The world has become a far more dangerous place since February 24th 2022.