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SUNDAY, October 01, 2023

Saudi Arabia wants deeper ties after first year of re-engagement, minister says

Saudi Arabia wants deeper ties after first year of re-engagement, minister says
SATURDAY, June 10, 2023

Saudi Arabia has pledged steadfast bilateral relations with Thailand as ties deepen between the public and private sectors of both countries following a year of re-engagement, outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Don Pramudwinai said.

Don, who is also minister of Foreign Affairs, made the comment a day after completing a two-day official visit to Riyadh, during which he met with high-ranking Saudi officials and executives.

"All of the meetings and discussions that took place during this trip reflect both parties' intent to move forward together. There is a religious ceremony going on right now in Saudi Arabia, and most senior officials must be in Jeddah. However, they are flying to Riyadh to greet us directly," Don said.

He visited King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology to observe advances in Saudi technology and the Federation of Saudi Chambers to meet with private sector executives before visiting the National Museum.

Saudi Arabia wants deeper ties after first year of re-engagement, minister says

Don also met with Hissein Brahim Taha, secretary-general of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, saying they discussed how to increase cooperation.

His visit marked the one-year anniversary of diplomatic normalisation after 32 years of strained relationships.

Darm Boontham, Thailand's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said a lot had happened during the year, including the fact that more than 200 Saudis applied for visas to travel to Thailand daily.

"From the beginning of this year until now, over 150,000 Saudis have visited Thailand," Darm said, adding that the number is expected to surpass 200,000 this year.

Saudi Arabia wants deeper ties after first year of re-engagement, minister says

Dozens of executives from Thai companies also visited Riyadh for two roundtable meetings with their Saudi counterparts.

Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said he has seen a lot of promising progress in joint projects between Thailand and Saudi Arabia since he last visited the country in May 2022.

Saudi executives are now more excited about working with their Thai counterparts, Sanan said.

Some Saudi investors, backed by their government, want Thailand to assist them with service management, Sanan said, adding that Thai products, food, and fruits have grown in popularity in Saudi Arabia.

Sanan said the Thai Chamber of Commerce has already signed a memorandum of understanding to establish the Thai-Saudi Chamber of Commerce.

Thai and Saudi startups are already connecting through their respective associations and this will help each startup access venture capital and enter new regional markets, he said.

(left) Sanan Angubolkul

During a roundtable discussion hosted by Saudi Investment Minister Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al-Falih, the minister acknowledged that Thailand is an important trade and investment partner in assisting Saudi Arabia's entry into the Southeast Asia region.

"I'd like to send a message to the new government to keep this momentum going so that we can have more strong allies to deal with global uncertainty," Sanan said, adding that the new Cabinet should be formed as soon as possible so that the country can finally move forward.

According to Thailand's Commerce Ministry, trade volume between the two countries was around 33 million baht last year, and the figure is on the rise.

Saudi Arabia wants deeper ties after first year of re-engagement, minister says

As Thailand is in the process of forming a new government following the general election on May 14th, Don said that he and his team are preparing all necessary documents and information to provide to the next foreign affairs minister.

This will allow Thailand to continue its collaboration with Saudi Arabia smoothly and ensure the past year of intensive diplomatic efforts to re-engage were not in vain, he said.