Ties collapsed between both sides after a Thai janitor stole $20M worth of gems in 1989 from a Saudi prince's home. Riyadh says Thai police bungled probe while the janitor became a monk in 2016.

Both sides announced
Both sides announced "the full re-establishment of diplomatic relations", three decades after ties soured over theft of precious gems. (AP Archive)

Saudi Arabia and Thailand have announced re-establishing diplomatic ties, after more than three decades of frozen relations linked to the theft of jewels from a Saudi palace.

The two countries announced in a joint statement "the full re-establishment of diplomatic relations" on Tuesday during a visit by Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha 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 said on Tuesday, following a meeting between the Thai premier and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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

Whereabouts of gems unknown

Thai-born janitor Kriangkrai Techamong stole $20 million worth of precious gems in 1989 from the home of a Saudi prince, triggering a feud between the countries dubbed the "Blue Diamond Affair".

Thailand had repeatedly sought to restore ties, in part to benefit its crucial tourism industry, but Saudi Arabia had long accused Thai police of bungling their investigation into the 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.

Riyadh sent a businessman to investigate in 1990 but he disappeared in Bangkok days after three Saudi diplomats were shot dead in the city.

In 2014, due to a lack of evidence, a case was dropped against five men, including a senior Thai policeman, accused of involvement in the Saudi businessman's murder.

Kriangkrai served five years in jail over the jewel theft and sold most of the gems before his arrest. He became a monk in 2016.

Source: AFP