Saudi jewelry case takes a new turn in Thailand

Other News Materials 4 April 2008 09:18 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - The unsolved cases of four Saudi diplomats murdered in Thailand 18 years ago, whose deaths were purportedly linked to the theft of priceless jewelry from a Saudi prince, has been reopened by the new justice minister, reports said Friday.

Justice Minister Sompong Amornwiwat on Thursday paid a visit to Bangkok's Klong Prem Prison, where Police Lieutenant General Chalor Kerdthes, a key player in the Saudi jewelry case, has been an inmate for the past 14 years.

Chalor, a former deputy commissioner of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) who was put in charge of the Saudi case in 1990, is serving a life-sentence for the abduction and murder of the wife of Santi Srithanakhan, a Thai gem trader who was believed to be involved in the disappearance of Saudi Prince Faisal's jewelry including a "priceless" Blue Diamond in 1989.

The unsolved murders and still missing jewelry have soured Thai-Saudi relations for the past two decades.

"If I have a chance to mend the ties which have been strained for the past 18-19 years, I will not let it slip," Sompong told the Bangkok Post after visiting Chalor, one of the few people who may know what happened to the purloined Blue Diamond.

"I am willing to testify as a witness if requested," said Chalor, after meeting Sompong, who became Justice Minister on February 6.

Sompong has pledged to do his utmost to solve the outstanding Saudi cases.

The murders of Saudi diplomats Abdullah Al-Maliki, gunned down in Bangkok in 1989, and Adbullah A Al-Besri, Fahad A Z Albahli and Ahmed A Alsaif, who were assassinated in January 1990, have been linked to a jewelry theft committed by Thai labourer Kriangkrai Techamong who was working at Prince Faisal's palace in Saudi Arabia in 1989.

Kriangkrai allegedly sent the stolen jewelry back to Thailand by post.

Thai police tracked down and arrested Kriangkrai at his home in Lampang province in 1990, and his evidence led to the retrieval of much of the missing jewelry.

However, when the precious cargo was returned to Prince Faisal it was discovered that most of the items were crude fakes.

In retribution, Saudi Arabia refused to allow Thai labourers to seek employment in the oil-rich country and prohibited its citizens from visiting the Asian kingdom.

Several past Thai governments have attempted to upgrade relations with Saudi Arabia, but their attempts have fallen flat because of failures to solve the murder cases and find the real Blue Diamond.