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Thailand, Saudi Arabia to Restore Ties 30 Years After Gems Theft, Diplomat Murders

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman meet in Saudi Arabia.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman meet in Saudi Arabia.

Thirty years after the theft of Saudi crown jewels and the murders of its diplomats, the Middle Eastern country and Thailand will fully restore diplomatic ties.

“The two sides agreed on important steps that would enhance bilateral relations, including: appointing ambassadors in the two capitals in the near future, and establishing a consultative mechanism to strengthen bilateral cooperation, where communication will be intensified in the coming months to discuss bilateral coordination in key strategic areas,” a joint statement read.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha affirmed that Thailand attaches the utmost importance to the bond of friendship with the Saudi Arabia and keen to resolve all pending issues between the two sides, expressing his sincere regrets for the “Blue Diamond Affair” of 1989-1990.

He reaffirmed that Thailand had exerted utmost efforts to resolve the theft and murders and that it stands ready to bring the cases to the consideration of the competent Thai authorities if new well-founded evidence relating to the cases should emerge.

He also reaffirmed Thailand’s commitment to providing appropriate security to members of the Saudi mission in Bangkok in accordance with the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Both sides also reiterated their commitments to do their utmost to ensure the safety of each other’s nationals in their respective countries.

“Discussions included ways to strengthen and enhance economic and trade relations between the two countries through exploring investment and opportunities available in the light of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, and Thailand’s development priorities, which include the policy of a dynamic – circular – green economy, in addition to discovering new areas of cooperation, such as: renewable energy and the environment, digital transformation, and cybersecurity,” it added.

Saudi Arabia downgraded diplomatic relations with Thailand and took long-lasting punitive steps following the killing of Saudi diplomats and disappearance of a Saudi businessman in Bangkok after the theft of the country’s state gems, including a stunning blue diamond, in 1989.

Saudi Arabia replaced its ambassador with a charge d’affaires, banned Saudi Arabian nationals from travelling to Thailand and stopped Thai workers from working there. The result was restricted trade, labor cooperation and investment for three decades.

Within hours of the announcement, Saudia, the state airline, announced the launch of direct flights to Thailand in May.

The announcement is the culmination of six years of work by the Thai Foreign Ministry to mend the long-broken fences between the two countries, most recently in 2005. Then, Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon, representing HM King Rama XI, attended the funeral of King Fahd and was granted an audience with King Abdullah.

“Without the PM’s attention, the visit would have never happened,” current Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai said in prepared comments released before the meeting. “This is no easy task considering relations have been strained for more than 30 years. Therefore, Jan. 25 marks a new dawn for the relations and the prime minister played a key role.”