11 July 2024

Thailand and Saudi Arabia have agreed to resume normal diplomatic ties and are ready to begin a new era of bilateral relations, thanks to the joint efforts of Thai and Saudi officials in recent years, said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in a statement released in Riyadh after his meeting with Crown Prince and Deputy Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud yesterday (Tuesday).

Gen. Prayut’s official visit to Saudi Arabia is the highest-level meeting between the two countries in more than 30 years.

Diplomatic ties were strain and downgraded following a jewellery theft in Saudi Arabia and the assassinations of Saudi diplomats in Thailand. About $20 million of jewels were stolen by a Thai janitor working in the palace of a Saudi prince in 1989. A year after the theft, three Saudi diplomats seeking the valuables’ return were shot dead in Bangkok. No one was convicted for the killings. Many of the jewels sent back to Riyadh were fake. The priceless 50-carat blue diamond was never recovered.

The statement said Prayuth expressed “sincere regret over the tragic events in Thailand between 1989 and 1990” and said his government is ready to raise cases to the competent Thai authorities in the event of new, relevant evidence.

According to Prayut, in the initial stage, the two countries will appoint their respective ambassadors and set up a mechanism to pursue bilateral talks on the resumption and promotion of cooperation in various aspects, including trade and investment in fields ranging from energy and petrochemicals to tourism and hospitality in accordance with the policy of Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) Economy as well as cooperation in new areas, such as the environment, renewable energy, digital technology and cyber security.

The prime minister said he expects more Saudis to visit Thailand from now on, which will bring in at least 5 billion baht in foreign exchange and will help strengthen Thailand’s energy security.

He also said that he had met with members of the Thai community in Saudi Arabia and promised that the government will take good care of them.

In the end, he said, he is pleased with the beginning of a new era of relations between Thailand and Saudi Arabia, adding that his visit is just the beginning of the renewed relations and cooperation between the two countries for mutual benefit.

The young Prince Mohammed has increasingly focused on winning allies abroad and mending rifts with regional rivals, including Iran, Qatar, Turkey and Pakistan.

Saudi Arabia, in a push to modernize and diversify its oil-dependent economy, is trying to draw foreign tourists and investors and overhaul its reputation as one of the world’s most closed countries with a bleak human rights record.

Thai PBS World, Reuters, Associated Press