Saudi Arabia and Thailand restore relations after more than 30 years

The Prime Minister of Thailand, Prayuth Chan-Ocha, met this Tuesday in Riyadh with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, in what was the first visit of such a level between representatives of the two countries in nearly 30 years.

After the meeting, Bin Salman and Chan-Ocha issued a joint statement in which they promised to work to normalize relations between the two kingdoms, a normalization that would include “the appointment of ambassadors in their respective capitals in the near future.”

Relations between the two countries soured in 1989, when a Thai janitor stole some $20 million worth of jewelry from the Saudi royal palace, including a massive 50-carat blue diamond. The thief managed to flee and travel to his country, becoming an international case.

Saudi Arabia took it out on Thailand

Jewelry theft that sparked the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Thailand Saudi Arabia and Thailand restore relations after more than 30 years

Riyadh reacted by suspending visas for Thai immigrant workers, as well as pilgrimage visas to Mecca for Muslims from the Southeast Asian country, and actively participated in the investigation of the case and the search in Thailand for the stolen jewelry.

During that time, three diplomats from the Arab kingdom working to recover the jewels were assassinated in Bangkok, events that led to the withdrawal of the Saudi ambassador to Bangkok in 1990.

A Saudi businessman was kidnapped

Saudi Arabia and Thailand restore relations after more than 30 years

Four years later, a Saudi businessman who was also allegedly after the jewels was kidnapped, and is believed to have been killed. In both cases, no one was found guilty or punished.

Although the Thai police claimed to have solved the case, Riyadh denounced that many of the jewels returned to Saudi Arabia were fake. At the same time, reports circulated in the media that several women of high-ranking officials in Thailand had been seen wearing jewelry similar to that stolen.

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