Saudi Arabia–Thailand relations

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Saudi Arabia-Thailand relations
Map indicating locations of Saudi Arabia and Thailand

Saudi Arabia


Saudi Arabia–Thailand relations (Arabic: العلاقات السعودية التايلاندية‎) refers to the current and historical relations between Saudi Arabia and Thailand. Saudi Arabia has an embassy in Bangkok and Thailand has an embassy in Riyadh but representation is at the chargé d'affaires rather than ambassadorial level. However Saudi Arabia and Thailand aim to restore the relations between their two nations.[1] Relations between the two countries were established in 1957 and hundreds of thousands of Thais went to Saudi Arabia to work.[2] The historically friendly and strategic partnership between Saudi Arabia and Thailand has deteriorated significantly following the Blue Diamond Affair. Although regardless of relation status, Saudi Arabia and Thailand have high trade between two nations (further look in →Economic Relations). Saudi Arabia and Thailand still work together diplomatically as the dispute is between the generals who overthrow the governments at most times. In recent Saudi Arabia and Thailand have shown intent to repair the relations between the two kingdoms.[1]


The Kingdom of Thailand and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have long and historic relations. The two Kingdoms have enjoyed warm and cordial relationships even before the establishment of formal diplomatic ties on 1 October 1957 with resident representative in their respective capitals.[3] In 1966 the status of their relation was upgraded to ambassador level, the first Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Thailand was H.E. Abdulrahman Al-Omran while H.E. Prasong Suwanpradhes was the first Thai Ambassador accredited to Saudi Arabia.[3]

Relations between the two Kingdoms have been further strengthened by the visit to Saudi Arabia in January 1984 of the Thai delegation led by Thai Deputy Foreign Minister Prapas Limpabhandhu and high-ranking officials from the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, as well as representatives from the Thai Parliament and the private sector.[3]

According to Thai author Achara Ashayagachat: ″Before the downgrade and sanctions, up to 500,000 Thais worked in Saudi Arabia. Now perhaps just 100 are there. Thousands of students once studied in Saudi Arabia, but now only 300 do.″[1]

According to the Royal Thai Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: ″Thailand and Saudi Arabia always share similar views on major regional and international issues, especially those of vital importance to international peace and security. Both countries are working closely and supported each other’s position in the United Nations and at other international fora.″[3]

A Chronology of key events of Thai - Saudi Diplomatic Ties[edit]

Date Key Event
1 October 1957 Establishment of diplomatic ties
1966 Exchange of resident Ambassador level
1981 Saudi Arabia Fund for Development loaned

Thailand US $51.47 millions for Lignite Electricity Plant in Mae Moh, Thailand.

1984 Official Visit to Saudi Arabia of Thai Deputy Foreign

Minister, Prapas Limprabhan

1985 Official Visit to Saudi Arabia of Thai Foreign

Minister (ACM Siddhi Savetsila). Islamic Development Bank (IDB) granted Baht 32 Million for construction of Islamic College in Yala Province, Southern Thailand.

Late 1990 Official Visit to Saudi Arabia of Thai Foreign Minister,

Dr. Arthit Urairat.

Feb 1993 Official Visit to Saudi Arabia of Thai Deputy Foreign Minister, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan.
1995 Official Visit to Saudi Arabia of Thai Deputy Foreign Minister, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan with signing an Agreement on “Avoidance of Double Taxation” with Saudi side.
1998-99 Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Commerce of Thailand visited to Saudi Arabia.
1999-2001 Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Fahd Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has sponsored Thai pilgrims to perform Haj

over 1,000 persons.

20 April 2004 Official Visit to Saudi Arabia of H.E. Dr. Surakiart Sathirathai,

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand. The Minister was granted an audience with the Crown Prince Abdullah Ibn Abdul Aziz Al Saud.

8 Jan 2005 Saudi Government sent a condolence and provided humanitarian assistance to Tsunami affected communities in Thailand worth $ US 1 million Dollars
6 Apr 2005 The 4 th Asia Cooperation Dialogue Ministerial Meeting in Islamabad accepted Saudi Arabia as member with persuasion and great support from Thailand.
8–10 May 2005 Signing MOU for Amendment of Agreement on Air Services in Jeddah.
22–23 May 2005 Visit to Saudi Arabia of Chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries and party.
2 Aug 2005 Their Majesties [King] and Queen and Crown Princess of Thailand sent messages of condolence to Crown Prince Abdullah for the demise of King Fahd.
3 Aug 2005 Official Visit to Saudi Arabia of Dr. Kanthathi Suphamongkhon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, in the capacity as His Majesty King's and Thai Government's Representative, to attend King Fahd's funeral ceremony and had an audience with King Abdullah who accessed to the throne on 1 Aug 2005.
16 Nov 2005 Official Visit to Saudi Arabia of H.E. Dr. Surakiart Sathirathai, Deputy Prime Minister and met with Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabiato hand over an invitation letter to His Majesty King Abdullah to attend the Royal Ceremony on the occasion of 60 th Anniversary of Accession to the Throne of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand.
19-24 Nov 2005 5 members of Shoura Council (Saudi Consultative Council)

attended the 6 th General Assembly of the Association of Asian Parliament hosted by Thai Parliament.


Economic Relations[edit]

In 2004, Saudi Arabia was 24th major market for Thai exports and 3 rd major market of Thailand in Middle East. Thailand ranked 20th among major traders with Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is Thailand’s major supplier of crude oil. Thailand’s trade with Saudi Arabia reached 2.9 Billion USD in 2004.

In 2005 two-way trade rose to 5 Billion USD. Thailand imported from Saudi Arabia 4 Billion USD while exported 1 Billion USD.

Thailand imported mainly crude oil, petrochemical products and fertilizer while exporting to Saudi Arabia motor cars auto part and accessories, air conditioning machine, refrigerators, prepared or preserved fish, woven fabrics, washing machines, machinery, garments, rice etc.[3]

Thai Labour in Saudi Arabia[edit]

Pre-Gulf War (1990) Saudi Arabia was the largest market for Thai oversea workers with its number over 200,000. At present, according to the statistic provided by Ministry of foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, 10,000 Thais remain in the Kingdom.[3]

Haj and Islamic Affairs[edit]

Thailand, with over 7.5 million Muslim population takes great pride in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s care of the Holy Land. Thailand and Saudi Arabia historic links could be trace back to the early day of establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The number of Thai pilgrims perform their fifth pillar of Islam each year approximately between 9,000 to 10,000.

In 2005, the number of Thai Pilgrims performing religious rituals in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah reached 10,124.

Up to date, the number of Thai Muslim 12,400 have already applied their documents at the Department of Religious Affairs to perform Hajj which will be started at the end of this year.[3]

Blue Diamond Affair fallout[edit]

The Blue Diamond Affair[4] was a series of events triggered by the 1989 theft of gems belonging to the Saudi royal family by a Thai employee. Mohammad al-Ruwaili,[5] a Saudi Arabian businessman close to the Saudi royal family traveled to Bangkok to investigate the case, but was abducted and killed. Three months later, three officials from the Saudi Embassy were also shot to death in Bangkok. The murders remain unsolved to this day.[6] The affair has soured relations between Saudi Arabia and Thailand for the last 25 years.

As a result, Saudi Arabia does not issue working visas for Thais and discourages its citizens from visiting the country.[citation needed]. Although a travel ban exists many Saudis violate it and travel constantly to the Kingdom of Thailand, Elias Siyaman, a tourist company representative, said there is clear growth in the number of Saudis tourists, where they come in fourth place among Gulf tourists. They travel through the closest airports to Bangkok. A large percentage of Saudi nationals come for tourism and 70 percent are single.[7] Diplomatic missions were downgraded to chargé d'affaires level. The number of Thai workers in Saudi Arabia fell from more than 200,000 in before the theft to around 10,000 in 2008.[2]

According to Arab News: "It is to be recalled that the negligence of Thai authorities to investigate a number of security cases, where some Saudi citizens were victims, led to the deterioration of relations between the Kingdom and Thailand for more than 20 years. The Kingdom clearly asked Thailand to achieve justice in these cases in accordance with international treaties and conventions. Since then, the Saudi Embassy in Thailand has spared no efforts in urging Thai officials for an end to all such cases in order to restore diplomatic and business relations between the two countries."[7]

The fifth charge d'affaires since the 1990 diplomatic downgrade said many Thais and Saudis want to see warmer ties. "My mission is to communicate and see to the final resolution of this court case. The ball is in the Thai court now and Saudi Arabia is ready to celebrate together," he said as Riyadh awaits the verdict from the Court of Appeal, following last year's ruling by the Court of First Instance. The Ruwaili family petitioned His Majesty the King and appealed to the Appeal Court. "We will proceed through to the end [the highest court]. "I'm amazed and am wondering why Thai authorities can find culprits for [the murders of] British nationals but not for us," he said, adding the Ruwaili case was the only remaining chance for justice. "Whether we can restore good ties between us relies solely on this case." I believe the Thai government has good intentions to normalise relations. But the restoration will have to be done without the rights of our citizens being infringed upon," Mr Alsheaiby said. Several businesses are keen to invest in Thailand, but they have been prohibited because of economic sanctions, he said. The Saudi low-cost airline, Flynas, is keen to launch a route between Jeddah and Bangkok to tap the market for tourists and Haj-Umrah pilgrims. Currently, most flights between Saudi Arabia and Southeast Asia are via the Philippines and Indonesia as they supply workers to the Saudis. "Once relations are restored the Saudi private sector would like to hire Thais rather than other nationals," Mr Alsheaiby said.[1]

Traveling to Thailand from Saudi Arabia requires an official business visit by the government. Personal business visits have to be authorized by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Tourism is not permitted to Thailand and violating the law by traveling to Thailand is taken seriously. Violators may be subject to investigation leading to a fine or a jail sentence. The number of Thai Muslim pilgrims permitted to perform the hajj has been strictly limited.[citation needed]

In recent years, there have been signs of a thawing of relations. UPI columnist Frank G. Anderson argues that "one theory is the Gulf rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia, wherein the Saudi kingdom finds Iran’s growing influence in Thailand a disadvantage to its relations with Thailand".[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d
  2. ^ a b Saudi Arabia had strong ground relations already as both nations were monarchies and fighting common enemies such as communism and terrorism, both Saudi Arabia and Thailand were part of U.S president George W. Bush's War on Terror."Time running out for thai-saudi relations". (sic)en severely strained Editorial. The Nation. 9 April 2008. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h
  4. ^ Thailand's Blue Diamond Heist: Still a Sore Point
  5. ^ [1][dead link]
  6. ^ "Thai cop convicted of Saudi gem theft". Television New Zealand. Archived from the original on 14 February 2015. Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ Frank G. Anderson. "Thailand revisits Saudi murder cases." Thai Traditions column from UPI Asia. 30 January 2009. Archived from the original on 5 January 2012.