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Bangkok and Riyadh bury the blue diamond affair

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A few agreed formulas, the announcement of an upcoming appointment of ambassadors and the promise of direct flights by Saudi Airlines: the reconciliation between Thailand and Saudi Arabia is as sober as the reasons for their estrangement, for three decades , were earthy. Visiting Riyadh on Tuesday 25 and Wednesday 26 January, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman officially turned the page on the blue diamond affair, without publicly entering into details, the Thai party contenting itself with expressing “sincere regrets” about the past.

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The story begins in 1989, with a spectacular larceny: the Thai employee of a Saudi prince steals precious stones from his masters, for an estimated value of 20 million dollars (17 million euros), and succeeds in get them out of the palace by hiding them in a vacuum cleaner bag, before bringing them back to his country. Among them, a very rare blue diamond of 50 carats, the price of which the thief does not know and which he tries to resell without too many precautions. The police, after apprehending him, organizes the return of the loot to the Saudi authorities. A twist: some of the jewels – including the famous blue diamond – are missing, and some of the stones returned appear to be fakes. Riyadh, suspecting senior Thai police officers of pocketing the jewels, dispatches Mohammed Al-Ruwaili, a businessman close to the Saudi royal family, to Bangkok to investigate.

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In January and February 1990, four Saudi diplomats were mysteriously murdered in Bangkok. A few days later, Ruwaili himself disappeared – his body was never found. While the Saudi authorities are indignant, the investigation is slipping and the most sulphurous rumors are circulating about the blue diamond: it was seen on the neck of the wife of such and such a senior official – some even claim, without proof , that it would be held by Queen Sirikit, wife of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, then on the throne and adored by the population. “Nothing has ever been clear in this case, notes Paul Handley, author in 2006 of The King Never Smiles (Yale University Press, untranslated), an unauthorized biography of Bhumibol Adulyadej. No one has ever seen this blue diamond, but everyone seems to take it for granted that it exists and has disappeared in Thailand. The case is all the more sensitive in that in this country, the world of precious stones is closely linked to the royal family, which buys and supports this activity. »

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