Asian students flee Cairo as violence descends

August 23, 2013

Following the violent political unrest in the Egyptian capital of Cairo that heightened in recent weeks, South East Asian countries with large cohorts of international students in the nation are sending students back to their home countries. Since last Friday, around 1,000 people have been reportedly killed after supporters of Egypt's ousted Islamist President clashed with security forces.

Source: Mohammed Elsayyed/

On Tuesday, Najib Razak, Malaysian Prime Minister, called for the evacuation of around 3,300 Malaysian students following a recommendation from the country’s National Security Council. Around 7,850 Malaysians had already returned to Egypt for the semester break, with 11,145 in the country before the end of the term. Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister, Muhyuddin Yassin, said in a press conference earlier this week that Malaysian students due to enrol at Egyptian universities will have to delay their studies by one semester. The Malaysian government will take action against universities that do not comply.

Malaysian medical student at Al-Azhar University, Nurul Afifah Rosman, told local media that he was sad about leaving Egypt. “My parents are worried about me; things are unpredictable here,” she said. “Some days the locals will protest and sometimes there is no protest.”

Meanwhile in Thailand, around 600 of the 1,820 Thai students in the country were evacuated last Thursday after the Thai government upped its alert level to four over the weekend. Since then, a further 400 had registered their intention to fly back to Thailand, according to the Thai student association in Cairo that has subsequently announced temporary closure. Deputy Education Minister, Sermsak Pongpanich, said that any returning students wishing to continue their studies in Thailand will be assisted by the ministry to find an alternative institution and transfer credits.

Nattapol Deecharoen, a Thai student studying at pre-college level in Egypt before enrolling at a university, told the Bangkok Post that students were too scared to go outside. “I have no choice but to put my studies on hold, but I will go back there,” he added.

The Filipino government has also earmarked an initial US$240,000 for the mandatory repatriation of 6,000 citizens in Egypt, most of whom are students or domestic workers, after the government also raised its alert level to four (the highest level for the country). Singapore will also retrieve a dozen of its international student citizens remaining in the country, while Indonesia currently considers evacuation unnecessary – although the government has been carrying out preparation measures.

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