Saudi Arabia and Thailand restore ties, decades after Gem Theft

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Saudi Arabia Saudi ArabiaAfter a Thai janitor stole $20 million worth of diamonds from a Saudi prince’s residence in 1989, relations between the two countries deteriorated. According to Riyadh, Thai police botched the investigation while the janitor became a monk in 2016. After more than three decades of frozen relations over the theft of jewels from a Saudi palace, Saudi Arabia and Thailand have announced the re-establishment of diplomatic relations.

During Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-visit Cha’s to Riyadh on Tuesday, the two nations proclaimed “the full re-establishment of diplomatic ties” in a joint statement. “This historic move is the outcome of long-standing efforts at various levels to re-establish mutual confidence and good ties,” the joint statement said after a meeting between Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday.

In the meanwhile, Saudi Airlines has stated that flights to Thailand will resume in May. In 1989, Thai-born janitor Kriangkrai Techamong stole $20 million in priceless jewels from the residence of a Saudi royal, sparking the “Blue Diamond Affair” between the two countries.

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Thailand has tried several times to mend fences, in part to benefit its vital tourism economy, but Saudi Arabia had long accused Thai police of botching the investigation into the crime, alleging that the stolen jewels were snatched up by top officials. Some of the diamonds were eventually returned to Thai police, but Saudi officials said the majority were fakes, and the location of the most valuable stone –– a rare 50-carat blue diamond –– is still unknown.

In 1990, Riyadh dispatched a businessman to investigate, but he vanished in Bangkok only days after three Saudi ambassadors were killed in the city. A prosecution against five persons, including a senior Thai police officer, accused of complicity in the Saudi businessman’s murder was abandoned in 2014 owing to a lack of evidence. Kriangkrai was sentenced to five years in prison for diamond theft, and the majority of the stones were sold before his capture. In 2016, he became a monk.

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