Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Blue Diamond Affair: more arrests, questions

Includes new research

 Bangkok Post reports on an update to the Blue Diamond Affair:
The prosecution on Tuesday indicted Pol Lt-Gen Somkid Boonthanom, commissioner of Provincial Police Region 5, and four other suspects in the Criminal Court in connection with the disappearance of Saudi businessman Mohammad al-Ruwaili in 1990. . . .

The disappearance of al-Ruwaili was believed to have been linked to the killing of three Saudi diplomats, also in 1990, and the Saudi royal palace jewellery theft by a Thai worker, Kriengkrai Techamong, in 1989.
DSI took over the investigation into the Saudi murders from the police in 2004. With the statute of limitations on investigations into the killings approaching, in August 2008 a new suspect, Abu Ali, was named in the 1990 murder of Saudi diplomat Abdullah al-Besri.   Last summer the Bangkok Post reported:
The police listed three possible motives for the killings: a conflict of interest over sending Thai workers to Saudi Arabia, the illegal export of marijuana, sandalwood and oil to Saudi Arabia through the abuse of diplomatic immunity privileges, and a conflict among mafia-type gangs in Pattaya.
Seemingly the most obvious motive for the killings, a cover up of knowledge of the blue diamond fiasco, was not mentioned, as I commented back then.

However, another possible motive for the killings was also not mentioned by the police.  Neither has this motive been mentioned in any of several dozen news clippings relating specifically to the Blue Diamond Affair.

The first killing routinely mentioned in press reports about the Blue Diamond Affair concerns the shooting by an unknown gunman of Saleh Abdullah al-Maliki, the third secretary at the Saudi embassy in Bangkok.  That killing took place on Jan 4, 1989.  According to the NY Times, "Two factions, the Soldiers of Justice and the Holy War Organization in Hejaz [al-Hijaz Islamic Jihad], have claimed responsibility for the murder of Salah Abdullah al-Maliki."   The New York Times article details the alleged links between al-Hijaz Islamic Jihand and the Iranian government.

What about the other murders of Saudi diplomats?  A Special Report by the The Foundation for Democracy (FDI) entitled "Alleged Victims of Iranian government "hit squads," 1979-1996," alleges that the three Saudi diplomats murdered in February 1990 -- a month after the arrest of Kriangkrai, the Thai who originally stole the Saudi jewels -- were "intelligence officers."   FDI lists all four murders of Saudi diplomats in Bangkok from 1989 to 1990 as  "Iranian hit squad" jobs.
The last sighting of Saudi businessman Mohammed al-Ruwaili, who is thought to have known who had stolen the jewelry was on Feb 12 1990.   Mr. al-Ruwaili, whom the five police officers arrested today were charged with murdering, was last seen in a car with Saudi consul Abdullah al-Besri.
The souring of Thai-Saudi relations brought about by the Blue Diamond Affair has coincided with an era of relatively good relations between Thailand and Iran.  (In 2007, at the request of Tehran, Thailand agreed to censor a movie about Iran -- Persepolis -- that had been intended to be shown at the Bangkok International Film Festival.  For updates on Iran-Thailand cultural relations see here.)  Frank Anderson of UPI noted that the "Saudi kingdom finds Iran’s growing influence in Thailand a disadvantage to its relations with Thailand."  Saudi Arabia now seems to want to improve its ties with Thailand -- a situation which may have various explanations.
Jotman's Timeline of the Blue Diamond Affair puts the latest news and his own research relating to the Blue Diamond Affair into context.  Note that several Bangkok Post articles which Jotman had relied upon contained errors. These errors have now been corrected on the timeline (but so far only on the timeline, not the Bangkok Post).

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