Manama: Saudi Arabia is reportedly considering easing a ban imposed 30 years ago on the travel of its citizens to Thailand.
Saudi Arabia imposed the ban following the “blue diamond” affair of 1989 when a Thai national broke into the palace of a Saudi prince and stole close to 100kg of jewellery, including a fabulous blue diamond.
Soon afterwards, three Saudi diplomats in Bangkok were shot execution-style in two different attacks on the same night, and two days later, a Saudi businessman was killed.
Under the new rules, six categories of Saudis will be allowed to visit the far-eastern country without breaking the law, Al Hayat daily reported on Sunday, quoting well-informed sources it did not name.
The decision was based on the recommendations of the security committee tasked with studying the outstanding issues between Saudi Arabia and Thailand.
The first category includes the participation of employees of government agencies and public institutions and entities in regional and international conferences, seminars, meetings and sports and cultural competitions.
The second category covers business activities by Saudis wishing to import goods from Thailand and showing evidence endorsed by the chamber of commerce, the sources said.
The ban will also be lifted for the employees of the regulatory and health authorities who travel to Bangkok as part of their work to follow up the products imported by Saudi Arabia from Thailand.
The fourth category includes patients and their companions for treatments for which Thailand has a good reputation or to receive treatment in Thai clinics where the cost is lower than in clinics in other countries according to a medical report endorsed by the embassy.
Under the fifth category, Saudis may travel to Thailand to visit relatives, up to the fourth degree, who are employed by the Saudi embassy in Bangkok.
The sixth category allows the travel of Saudis with family ties in Thailand.
Two years ago, Saudi Foreign Ministry officials said travel by Saudis to Thailand was banned unless there was an official approval or it was one of the three exception categories.
A Saudi can travel to Thailand if he submits documents proving he is married to a Thai woman or in the case of diseases that can be treated by hospitals or medical centres in Thailand, such as stem cell transplantation.
The third exception case related to passengers who can prove that their visit to Thailand is due to a transit of 24 to 72 hours. The air carrier should provide the Saudi national with formal evidence that he was on transit in Thailand.
According to Thai media, 77,782 Saudis visited Thailand in the year before the ban was imposed.
However, despite the ban, thousands of Saudis visit Thailand every year for various reasons.
A Saudi diplomat in Bangkok said that the overwhelming majority of the visitors did not register their names with the embassy and attributed their reluctance to “unfounded concerns that the diplomatic mission would report their names to Riyadh for breaking the ban”.
Many of those who contact the embassy do it “only after they wade into trouble, such as losing their passports.”