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Thailand and Saudi Arabia patch things up 33 years after Blue Diamond Affair

Tara Abhasakun

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Photo via PM Prayut Chan-o-cha's Facebook page

PM Prayut Chan-o-cha visited Saudi Arabia earlier this week, and Thailand and Saudi mended relations they broke 33 years ago following the Blue Diamond Affair in 1989 where a Thai cleaner in Saudi’s royal palace stole diamonds worth US$20 million from the prince. The next year, three Saudi diplomats and a businessman trying to recover the gems were killed. According to the state-run Saudi Press Agency, Prayut gave “his sincere regrets for the tragic cases that took place in Thailand between 1989 to 1990.”

Back in 1989, the Saudi prince and his wife had been on holiday for three months when the cleaner started to hide the diamonds in places around the palace where he knew no one else would find them. Then, over a month, he slowly moved them into a cargo delivery that he eventually sent to Thailand. Before the palace could find out the cleaner had stolen the diamonds, he had already fled back to Thailand.

To get the diamonds through customs, the cleaner left an envelope with cash for bribery in his cargo, and a note saying he had pornographic material in the cargo and preferred that authorities not search it. Thai authorities took the bribe. The cleaner kept some of the diamonds, and sold others. But just one month later, Thai police arrested the cleaner in his home after Saudi authorities alerted them. Authorities eventually retrieved the diamonds.

But Saudi officials said 80% of the diamonds were missing, and many that had been returned were fake. Then a photo was published of a senior Thai official wearing a necklace that looked eerily similar to one of the missing Saudi necklaces.

In February 1990, Thai gunmen shot and killed three Saudi diplomats in Bangkok who had been trying to find the diamonds. A Saudi businessman who travelled to Thailand to investigate the case of the missing diamonds was kidnapped. His body was never found, and many suspect he was killed. An extremely rare blue diamond was never recovered.

SOURCES: Business Insider | BBC

 

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    A Thai-American dual citizen, Tara has reported news and spoken on a number of human rights and cultural news issues in Thailand. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in history from The College of Wooster. She interned at Southeast Asia Globe, and has written for a number of outlets. Tara reports on a range of Thailand news issues.

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