Saudi Arabia restores ties with Thailand after gem theft dispute

Saudi Arabia and Thailand have announced the resumption of diplomatic ties following more than 30 years of frozen relations linked to the theft of jewels from a Saudi palace.

In 1989, Thailand-born janitor Kriangkrai Techamong stole $20m worth of precious gems from the home of a Saudi prince, triggering a spate of murders in Bangkok and a feud between the countries dubbed the Blue Diamond Affair.

Late on Tuesday, the two countries announced in a joint statement “the full re-establishment of diplomatic relations” during a visit by Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha to Riyadh.

“This historic step is the result of long-standing efforts at different levels to re-establish mutual confidence and friendly relations,” the joint statement added, following a meeting between the Thai premier and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The two countries agreed to appoint ambassadors in the near future.

Saudi Airlines meanwhile announced that flights to Thailand would resume in May.

The Thai government said Saudi Arabia is seeking eight million skilled workers, including in hotels, healthcare and construction projects, with Thailand indicating it had the human resources to help fill the need.

Saudi Arabia had long accused Thai police of bungling their investigation into the jewel theft, with allegations that the stolen gems were snapped up by senior officers.

Thai police later returned some of the jewels but Saudi officials claimed most were fakes, while the whereabouts of the most precious gem – a rare 50-carat blue diamond – remains unknown.

Thai media crackled with reports that the wives of top officials had been spotted wearing diamond necklaces that bore an uncanny resemblance to the stolen jewels.

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