CHIANG MAI — The head of a young political party pledged Saturday to restore relations with Saudi Arabia if they win seats in the upcoming election.
Pichet Sathirachawala, leader of Prachathamthai Party – or the Thai People Justice Party, in its official English name – said he wants the Gulf State kingdom to allow more Thais – up to 100,000 – to travel for hajj and seek work there. He also vowed to form cordial ties with the Islamic world.
“Muslims currently make up a third of the world’s population,” Pichet, who formerly led the Islamic Council of Thailand, told reporters. “I know what they want.”
Pichet spoke after his party, founded in March, opened a branch in the northern province of Chiang Mai. Citing his experience as a co-founder of the successful Thai Rak Thai Party, Pichet said he’s confident he can lead the country. He also envisioned Narathiwat Airport as a regional hub for travelers flying out to make hajj.
The decades-long enmity between the two kingdoms dates back to 1989 when a Thai gardener working in a Saudi royal palace allegedly stole a trove of jewels and other treasures before fleeing to Thailand.
Most of the jewels were never recovered, including the prized Blue Diamond. Two Saudi diplomats were later gunned down in Bangkok, and a Saudi businessman was abducted. In retaliation, Saudi Arabia froze ties with Thailand in 1990 and expelled Thai workers.
A criminal court in May 2015 cleared a group of policemen of kidnapping and murdering the businessman, Mohammad al-Ruwaili.