Skip to content Skip to Search
Skip navigation

Healthcare, hydrogen and more: Saudi-Thai deals in sight

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Thailand's then Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in November 2022, during the APEC summit in Bangkok Lillian Suwanrumpha/Pool via Reuters
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Thailand's then Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in November 2022, during the APEC summit in Bangkok
  • Diplomatic spat over
  • Thai bio-hydrogen skills valued
  • Farming, healthcare on deal list

Saudi Arabia and Thailand are strengthening economic ties with prospective deals in healthcare, hydrogen and agriculture after patching up a longstanding diplomatic spat.

The two nations reached a rapprochement in January 2022, more than three decades after a dispute over a 1989 jewellery heist known as the Blue Diamond Affair. 

“The economic opportunities from cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Thailand are significant,” Varavich Hongladarom, a prominent Thai businessman and chief executive of Bangkok-based management consultant Corevarion, told AGBI

Hongladarom is working with David Gibson-Moore, president of business advisory group Gulf Analytica, and undisclosed parties in Saudi Arabia to tie up deals in bio-hydrogen, farming and healthcare, they said. 

“Saudi Arabia is a high-carbon emitting nation that wants to expand its involvement in clean energy,” Hongladarom said. “Thailand can bring its innovation in bio-hydrogen and set up skills training centres for Saudis.

“Saudi Arabia can contribute capital investment to expand Thailand’s bio-hydrogen business in the GCC.”

Within healthcare, he said, there are opportunities in the “longevity” sector, which uses health technologies to predict medical risk and develop medicines to prolong human life.

Thailand has a sizable medical tourism industry and wants to attract more people from the Gulf seeking treatments. 

Thailand is also seeking input from Saudi Arabia into a $2 billion fund to support agricultural innovation, especially in plant-based foods, herbal vitamins and fruit farming. There are opportunities to use green hydrogen produced in Saudi to power Thai farms, Hongladarom added.   

The prospective deals are worth “billions of dollars”, Gibson-Moore said. “Both countries have distinct social and business cultures and are at the stage where they’re getting to know each other better.” 

The UAE is Thailand’s largest Gulf trading partner, but think tank Asia House said in November it expects restored diplomatic ties to increase Thai trade with Saudi Arabia, which in 2022 stood at $9.8 billion. 

The countries are aiming to increase bilateral trade by 20 percent annually in 2024 to reach $12 billion, Thai Chamber of Commerce chairman Sanan Angubolkul told the Thailand Mega Fair in Riyadh in December. 

The Blue Diamond affair

The 1989 diplomatic spat came about after a Thai cleaner was said to have taken gems, including a rare 50-carat blue diamond, from a palace in Riyadh. Three Saudi diplomats were shot dead in Bangkok following the theft. The blue diamond has never been recovered. 

The dispute is said to have cost billions of dollars in lost trade and employment, as Saudi Arabia stopped issuing work visas for Thai nationals and trade flows declined. 

Since restoring relations, the two countries have signed five agreements to increase bilateral trade and investment, promote tourism and deepen cooperation in energy.

Direct flights between Saudi Arabia and Thailand have increased. The state energy companies Saudi Aramco and PTT have agreed to work together on carbon capture and crude oil sourcing.

The Saudi-Thai Business Council was established last August, and two agreements on free trade were signed in late 2023. 

Saudi Arabia plans to invest $8.5 billion in Thailand this year, focusing on the Eastern Economic Corridor, the country’s industrial centre.

Latest articles

FILE PHOTO: United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Foreign Trade Thani Al Zeyoudi gestures during an interview with Reuters in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, June 30, 2022. REUTERS/Abdel Hadi Ramahi/File Photo

UAE and Kenya complete Cepa negotiations

The UAE and Kenya have completed negotiations on a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (Cepa) between the two countries. It is the 12th Cepa deal secured by the UAE and its third in Africa, after agreements were signed last year with Mauritius and the Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville). “The UAE-Kenya Cepa will not only boost […]

Adnoc has bid for German polymer manufacturer Covestro but its offers €55 and €57 per share were rejected

Adnoc faces hurdles in completing ambitious European deals

Abu Dhabi state oil company Adnoc is facing challenges to a duo of major European deals it is trying to get over the finish line, according to media reports. Talks with Austrian energy group OMV have been put on hold to allow parties to navigate a series of disagreements, the Financial Times reported on Friday. […]

The 450 companies operating at Dubai Science Park include AstraZeneca, and the free zone plans to add 200,000 sq ft of lab and office space

Dubai Science Park reveals expansion plans

Dubai’s biotechnology free zone is adding 60 percent more offices, laboratories and warehouses over the next few years to cater for an influx of new companies, its senior vice-president told AGBI.  Dubai Science Park, part of Dubai-listed Tecom Group, is planning an expansion of 200,000 sq ft of additional storage and logistics facilities at the […]

A worker at a phosphate production plant in Metlaoui, Tunisia. Phosphate accounts for 15% of Tunisia's exports

Saudi Arabia loans $55m for Tunisian rail renewal

Saudi Arabia has signed a $55 million loan deal with Tunisia to finance the renewal of the North African country’s rail network.  The railway is used to transport phosphate, a sector that makes up around 4 percent of Tunisia’s GDP and 15 percent of the country’s exports. Tunisia plans to produce eight million tonnes by […]