Blue Diamond Affair
The Blue Diamond Affair was a series of events triggered by the 1989 theft of gems belonging to the Saudi royal family by a Thai employee. The affair has soured relations between Saudi Arabia and Thailand for more than 20 years.
Theft and recovery
In 1989, Kriangkrai Techamong, a Thai worker, stole jewelry and other valuable gems from the palace of Prince Faisal bin Fahd where he was employed as a janitor. Kriangkrai had access to the princess's bedroom and managed to hide the stolen jewelry in a vacuum cleaner bag at the palace. The haul included a valuable blue diamond and other gems, which Kriangkrai shipped back to his home in Lampang province, Thailand.
An investigation launched by a team from the Royal Thai Police spearheaded by Lieutenant-General Chalor Kerdthes led to the arrest of Kriangkrai and recovery of most of the stolen jewelry. Kriangkai was sentenced to seven years in prison, but he was released after three years after confessing to the crime.
When a team of Royal Thai policemen under Lieutenant-General Chalor Kerdthes flew to Saudi Arabia to return the stolen jewelry the Saudi Arabian authorities found that about half of the returned jewels were fake and the Blue Diamond was missing.
Mohammad al-Ruwaili, a Saudi Arabian businessman close to the Saudi royal family travelled to Bangkok to investigate the case, but was abducted and killed. Three months later, three officials from the Saudi Embassy were also shot dead in Bangkok. The murders remain unsolved.
Lieutenant-General Chalor himself was convicted of ordering the murder of the wife and son of a gem dealer involved in the affair in 1995, and sentenced to death. The supreme court upheld the ruling and sentenced Lieutenant-General Chalor to death on October 16, 2009. Six other officers were also found guilty of involvement in the murders. Chalor's sentence has since been reduced to fifty years by King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the occasion of his 84th birthday anniversary.
Saudi Arabia stopped issuing working visas for Thais and discouraged its citizens from visiting Bangkok. Diplomatic missions were downgraded to chargé d'affaires level. The number of Thai workers in Saudi Arabia fell from over 150,000 in 1989 to 10,000 in 2006.
- Thailand's Blue Diamond Heist: Still a Sore Point
- Mccarthy, Terry (25 September 1994). "Saudi gems theft leaves deadly trail in Thailand". The Independent (London).
- Thai Foreign Minister to reopen Saudi gems scandal case
- "Thai cop convicted of Saudi gem theft". Television New Zealand. Retrieved 21 September 2011.
- The Economist: A law unto themselves
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