Saudi ambassador to Thailand sees ‘a prosperous and promising future’ for bilateral relations

Special Saudi ambassador to Thailand sees ‘a prosperous and promising future’ for bilateral relations
Relations between Saudi Arabia and Thailand were officially restored in January this year. (Supplied)
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Updated 27 November 2022

Saudi ambassador to Thailand sees ‘a prosperous and promising future’ for bilateral relations

Saudi ambassador to Thailand sees ‘a prosperous and promising future’ for bilateral relations
  • Investment opportunities are many thanks to similar development priorities, Abdurrahman bin Abdulaziz Al-Suhaibani tells Arab News
  • He says the crown prince’s recent visit will contribute to accelerated steps for enhancement of bilateral and trade relations

BANGKOK: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Bangkok last week has opened not only a new chapter in Saudi-Thai ties but also new horizons in which officials and the people see a promising future for both kingdoms.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Thailand were officially restored in January this year, during Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha’s trip to Riyadh, when the two countries agreed to appoint ambassadors for the first time in over three decades.

The crown prince arrived in Bangkok as a guest of honor at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit hosted by Thailand on Nov. 18-19 and became the first Saudi official to make such a trip.

“It was the first visit at the level of the Kingdom’s leadership since the establishment of relations between the two countries in 1957,” Abdurrahman bin Abdulaziz Al-Suhaibani, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Thailand, told Arab News.




In welcome messages, many Thais wrote it was an “honor” for them to see the Saudi crown prince in their country. (SPA)

“It will move the relations of the two countries to broader horizons and a prosperous and promising future.

“It will also contribute to accelerating steps that will enhance bilateral, economic and trade relations between the two countries by exploring potential investment opportunities in light of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and the development priorities of Thailand.”

The crown prince’s meetings with the Thai leadership have yielded numerous memorandums on energy, investment, tourism, anticorruption efforts and the normalization of diplomatic relations.

When the crown prince arrived in Bangkok, he was officially received by the country’s top leadership and royal family and unofficially by many others, especially from the younger generation, who took to social media to welcome him and set up online fan clubs.

In welcome messages, many Thais wrote it was an “honor” for them to see the Saudi crown prince in their country.




“I think Thai people are looking and are expecting more cooperation with Saudi Arabia,” Abdurrahman bin Abdulaziz Al-Suhaibani, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Thailand, told Arab News. (Supplied)

Photos and videos from the visit went viral and made the rounds with captions such as “Warm welcome, Prince,” “This is what people in the country (Thailand) want,” “Happy: Thai-Saudi relations are very close after 32 years,” “Long live MBS.”

“The relations now seem to be on the right track and will grow stronger and more comprehensive in the coming period,” Al-Suhaibani told Arab News.

“The Saudi embassy will focus on implementing and following up on the agreements and memoranda of understanding that were signed during this historic visit.”

Tanee Sangrat, director-general of information at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs and soon-to-be Thailand’s ambassador to the US, told Arab News that the visit was “closely watched and followed by the Thai people in Thailand and around the world.”




Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha’s trip to Riyadh in January. (Shutterstock)

He said: “We look to Saudi Arabia as a country that has great potential. The crown prince and prime minister is very widely well respected by our people.

“I think Thai people are looking and are expecting more cooperation with Saudi Arabia.”

With the restoration of ties with Saudi Arabia, Thailand has found not only a new powerful partner in navigating volatile energy markets and energy transition, but also, as many have said, a “gateway” to the Middle East, where Thailand’s presence is not very strong.
 

 

The restored relationship would give not only Thai exporters but also investors more access to opportunities in the Gulf and beyond.

“This is a big, big issue for Thailand. Saudi Arabia is a critical partner in the Middle East,” Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Bangkok-based Institute of Security and International Studies, told Arab News.

“That is a gateway for Thailand to re-engage and re-enter Middle East markets. Without the Saudi Arabia relationship, a lot of doors were closed. Now, more doors will be opened.”




Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Bangkok last week. (Supplied)

Suppalerk Aramkitphotha, a business development professional, saw the crown prince’s visit as a “great opportunity.”

“We are very glad that we have this opportunity,” he said, citing the business prospects between Thailand and the Middle East that would now be facilitated.

Jirayut Srupsrisopa, the founder of the first Thai fintech startup to notch up a valuation of more than $1 billion, said he was glad that the Saudi crown prince visited Thailand and new bridges were built.

“Now we can do so much more between Thailand and Saudi Arabia. We can work with Saudis for the future of energy, the future of green hydrogen or future growth in other aspects like the digital economy,” he told Arab News, adding that there would also be opportunities such as medical tourism.

Thailand, where healthcare services are well developed, already has agreements with countries such as Kuwait and Qatar for receiving patients. A deal with Saudi Arabia is likely to be a part of the two countries’ relations going forward.

“We are famous for medical tourism,” Jirayut said. “Everyone can come here, have a nice holiday, nice beach, nice mountains, nice hotels, nice services. And they can get their teeth done. They can recover. They can have a health checkup here at a fraction of the cost elsewhere.”

But there is much more to the renewed ties than business opportunities.

Referring to the potential role that culture can play in cementing the re-established Saudi-Thai relationship, Ambassador Al-Suhaibani said: “There are many similarities between the two countries, particularly in hospitality, generosity, friendliness and, most importantly the richness of culture.




Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Thai Prime Minister witness the exchange of several MoU between Saudi Arabia and Thailand. (Supplied)

“This will encourage us to strengthen relationships and communication between our people, as well as to promote constructive dialogue in many aspects of social, cultural and religious (life).”

This kind of exchange is what Thais have waited for a long time.

Voralak Tulaphorn, a marketing professional, said a Saudi presence is something that was missing from the multicultural landscape of Thailand for a long time.

“Saudi Arabia and (Thailand) actually have rich cultures, and with rich cultures it would be nice to have exchanges in everything from food and nature to fashion and handicrafts.”

For her, what holds the greatest promise as a means of bringing Thais and Saudis together is an appreciation of each other’s cuisines. Food is a good way to win hearts and spread cultural influence.

“I think people love Thai street food,” Voralak told Arab News, adding that she hoped that soon Saudi restaurants would start emerging in Bangkok. “We would love to taste Saudi Arabian food too.”


Harsh climates make the kindest people, says Heart of Arabia expedition leader from UK

Harsh climates make the kindest people, says Heart of Arabia expedition leader from UK
Updated 38 min 32 sec ago

Harsh climates make the kindest people, says Heart of Arabia expedition leader from UK

Harsh climates make the kindest people, says Heart of Arabia expedition leader from UK
  • Evans has lived in the region for over 25 years, and is head of Outward Bound Oman, an experiential learning organization dedicated to developing outdoor skills, the first of its kind in the Arab region

RIYADH: At first thought the freezing Arctic and scorching Arabian desert would seem to have little in common, but according to British explorer Mark Evans, their similarities lie in the people who live there.

It has been only a few days since Evans completed the Heart of Arabia expedition across the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia, a journey taken by the great explorer and writer Harry St. John Philby in 1917. Philby greatly contributed to the documentation of the region and felt so at home that he converted to Islam and named himself Abdullah.

The team of four, including Philby’s granddaughter Reem Philby, photographer Ana-Maria Pavalache, and regional expert Alan Morrissey, was led by Evans from the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia to the west in a 1,300 km journey that ended on Jan. 30.

Mark Evans and Saudi explorer Reem Philby on the second leg of the Heart of Arabia expedition following in Abdullah Philby's footsteps from 1917. (Photo/Ana-Maria Pavalache)

Every day, Evans and Reem would set off at sunrise, walking or sometimes mounted on camels, leaving the vehicles to catch up later in the day as they followed Philby’s route. Through Philby’s photographic documentation and detailed journals in the early 1900s, the group was able to pinpoint the exact locations almost 105 years later.

Evans has lived in the region for over 25 years, and is head of Outward Bound Oman, an experiential learning organization dedicated to developing outdoor skills, the first of its kind in the Arab region.

Before traveling around the Middle East, he lived a neo-nomadic lifestyle, honoring the beauty of uninhabited places through his travels, which included crossing Greenland’s ice sheet, and hunting for evidence of William Edward Parry’s 1820 Artic expedition on Melville Island.

A resting point for the Heart of Arabia expedition team between the Saudi desert sand dunes during the second leg of the journey, which kicked off from Diriyah in January. (Photo/Ana-Maria Pavalache)

Most journeys are spent in isolation, far away from the chaos and daily demands of the world, giving explorers a great opportunity for reflection and a chance to focus on the research at hand. These meaningful expeditions have allowed Evans to reframe the notion of isolation.

“I really like the word serenity because I find great peace and contentment in the desert. One of the best parts of the day is the first half an hour when I get into my sleeping bag and I just put my head on my pillow and look at the stars above that are just unbelievable,” he said. He said that he prefers to sleep on the sand rather than in a tent.

Having spent a whole year in the Arctic, including four months of total darkness with temperatures as low as minus 37 C, two weeks in the Saudi desert are relatively straightforward for Evans.

Much of British explorer Mark Evans' expeditions are spent in isolation from the chaos and happenings of the world, which provide great opportunity for reflection and focus. (Photo/Ana-Maria Pavalache)

Growing up in the British countryside, Evans’ exploring instincts were honed at an early age.

“I grew up in a time where you had to create your own entertainment. I was already very content in silent places and quiet places close to nature. That was my childhood. I was less comfortable going into noisy restaurants and discotheques,” he said.

I feel that my role in life is to try to inspire others and to give other people the opportunity that I had when I was a young person, to shape their own lives and make a positive difference to society.

Mark Evans, British explorer

Aged 17, he had the chance to join a six-week expedition to northern Norway through an educational charity in London. He shared a tent with two strangers in a place where the sun never set.

“I just fell in love with a life that was outside of my small rural life back in Britain,” Evans said.

That period set him off on a flurry of expeditions in the years to come. He spent 10 years in the Arctic, giving back to the youth and future generations in the same way the charity invested in him at an early age.

“It was a chance for me to step up and invest a bit of my time to support society,” he said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The Heart of Arabia expedition that follows in Abdullah Philby’s footsteps included his granddaughter Reem Philby, photographer Ana-Maria Pavalache, regional expert Alan Morrissey, and seasoned explorer Mark Evans who led the group from the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia to the west in a 1,300 km journey that ended on Jan. 30.

• Since the Heart of Arabia expedition began, the expedition’s official podcast has garnered nearly 3,000 downloads in 53 countries around the world, along with steady growth in followers across social media platforms. Listeners can follow the group’s documentation of everyday life in the Kingdom’s deserts.

But while his travels and philanthropic ventures were a great way to see the world, they paid far from a livable wage, which led him to become an educator.

Although Evans claims he went into teaching “for the wrong reasons,” it brought him to the Middle East, initially to Bahrain, then for four years at the British School in Riyadh, and later Oman.

Initially, he thought he would not particularly enjoy the region, but he quickly fell in love with the culture, heritage, and hospitality of the people.  

“There’s a real connection between those two places in my life. Arctic and Arabia both start with a letter ‘A,’ and the one thing they have in common is that people who live in the Arctic and who live in Arabia live on the extremes of human comfort.

“One lives in extreme cold, one lives in extreme heat. As (explorer and writer) Wilfred ‘Mubarak bin Landan’ Thesiger said: ‘The harder the life, the finer the person.’”

During winter nights, the Arctic sky would come alive with the electrifying energy of the aurora borealis. The sunlight, however, came in waves: From total darkness in early February to slivers of sunshine on the horizon, the season eventually turns to unbroken daylight.

“I hadn’t seen the sun for three months. I remember breaking down and crying because I knew that winter was coming to an end and summer was coming. And that was quite emotional,” Evans said.

Moments such as these are what keep the traveler curious for more. At the age of 61, he continues his quest to experience the glorious offerings of nature and serenity.

“​​Being here, I find total contentment. I wouldn’t find it working in a busy office in a noisy city,” he said.

As Evans grows older, his legacy is becoming a prime motivator. He continues to find ways to secure sustainable outcomes that influence the behavior and thinking of others, much like Abdullah Philby did.

Since the Heart of Arabia expedition began, their podcast has garnered nearly 3,000 downloads in 53 countries around the world, along with steady growth in followers across social media platforms. Listeners can follow the group’s documentation of everyday life in the Kingdom’s deserts.

The team has also launched the Philby Arabia Fund, which is dedicated to researchers looking to initiate projects in Saudi Arabia.

“Funding can be a real challenge,” Evans said. “You have an idea, but you just don’t know where to start. I feel that my role in life is to try to inspire others and to give other people the opportunity that I had when I was a young person, to shape their own lives and make a positive difference to society.”


Saudi artist exhibits an organic journey of color, emotions

Saudi artist exhibits an organic journey of color, emotions
Updated 35 min 25 sec ago

Saudi artist exhibits an organic journey of color, emotions

Saudi artist exhibits an organic journey of color, emotions
  • Over 150 drawings, paintings produced by Sami Al-Marzoogi between 1986-2022

JEDDAH: A solo exhibition called “What lies beneath color” is the first large-scale retrospective of the work of Saudi artist Sami Al-Marzoogi.

The exhibition, which is being hosted at Hafez Gallery and runs until March 3, focuses on the artist’s intuitive exploration of color, realistic and abstract-looking landscape views, deconstructed human figures, intricate geometric patterns, organic motifs, and fluid explorations rendered in ink, watercolors, acrylics, pastels, pencils, and polychromes.

Al-Marzoogi's work highlights his keen sensibility, exceptional drawing skills, and ability to create abstractions of his environment.

The exhibition brings together more than 150 drawings and paintings of the self-taught artist produced between 1986 and 2022.

He said: “I have always been interested in capturing impressions of anything that’s around me and painting on concepts that come from many hours of contemplation.

“Specifically, it’s the contrast of shapes, colors and light that had me intrigued. While I’m painting or drawing, the harmonious unity of my moods and sensations reflects in it.”

This opportunity will allow me to share the true art passion that I have built over 30 years to motivate the younger generation that are interested in art to take a leap into it and embrace it.

Sami Al-Marzoogi, Saudi artist

Al-Marzoogi, who previously pursued a successful career in medicine, added: “In the past I have exhibited my work alongside other artists but never had a solo show.

“This opportunity will allow me to share the true art passion that I have built over the 30 years to motivate the younger generation that are interested in art to take a leap into it and embrace it.”

He began to incorporate art into his daily routine in the 1980s, when he returned to the Kingdom after a decade-long stay in Germany. He dived deeper into his creative process each time, producing a cohesive body of paintings and drawings.

He started with watercolors mostly inspired by the sophisticated geometric arrangements present in Islamic decorative objects, such as rugs or mosaics.

He then shifted to polychromes, taking a more experimental road into sinuous shapes often constructed with creative adaptations of Arabic letters, which constitute the tradition of calligraphy.

Al-Marzoogi said that he always carries his ball pens or pencils, drawing more than one abstract each day. This refreshes his train of thought from a busy life routine and connects his artistic instincts to guide him to be more creative in his work.

He added: “I always follow and allow intuition and my perception to guide art making. Art needs a technique and a process, but I believe my instincts or emotions guide me in the way I approach things and what I am going to make next.

“When it comes to my work, I don’t like to think in terms of categories or definitions: My work stems from emotions.

“At the end of the day, you could argue that it has a deeper meaning or does not. That is up to the viewer.”

Commenting on the art scene in Saudi Arabia, Al-Marzoogi added: “The tradition of producing and understanding the different kinds of art has always been there in the Kingdom.

“The only difference now is that there are many platforms, cultural organizations, galleries, and events allowing the artists an unprecedented opportunity to showcase their artworks and get inspired by more established artists.”


Saudi Arabia launches aid project for people affected by Pakistan’s floods

Saudi Arabia launches aid project for people affected by Pakistan’s floods
Updated 19 sec ago

Saudi Arabia launches aid project for people affected by Pakistan’s floods

Saudi Arabia launches aid project for people affected by Pakistan’s floods
  • Al-Malki said that the project came under the implementation of the directives of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and continued support provided by the Kingdom to Pakistan since the start of the flood disaster last year

RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center has started a project to provide shelter materials in winter aid bags for the most vulnerable families affected by the floods in Pakistan.

The launch of the initiative was attended by Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki, the Kingdom’s ambassador to Pakistan; Lt. Gen. Inam Haider Malik, the head of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority; and other officials, at Saudi Arabia’s Embassy in Islamabad.

The project will supply 15,000 bags, weighing 190 tons. These will contain basic shelter materials to be distributed in eight affected areas. Some 175,000 people, or 15,000 families, will benefit from the aid.

Al-Malki said that the project came under the implementation of the directives of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and continued support provided by the Kingdom to Pakistan since the start of the flood disaster last year.

He added that the aid showed the keenness of the Saudi leadership to stand with the Pakistani people in times of crisis.

Malik thanked the Kingdom’s leadership and government for the humanitarian support, indicating that the aid was timely as authorities continue the process of rehabilitation and reconstruction in Pakistan’s flood-affected areas.

 

 


Saudi foreign minister arrives in Kuwait on official visit

Saudi foreign minister arrives in Kuwait on official visit
Updated 12 min 50 sec ago

Saudi foreign minister arrives in Kuwait on official visit

Saudi foreign minister arrives in Kuwait on official visit

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan arrived in Kuwait on an official visit, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry announced on Saturday.

Prince Faisal was received by his Kuwaiti counterpart Sheikh Salem Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, upon his arrival at Kuwait International Airport,.

The Saudi minister was also greeted by Saudi Ambassador to Kuwait Prince Sultan bin Saad bin Khalid.


Saudi Arabia’s ‘baboon problem’ targeted by National Center for Wildlife

Authorities have so far removed a number of baboon packs from Makkah and several holy sites. (Supplied)
Authorities have so far removed a number of baboon packs from Makkah and several holy sites. (Supplied)
Updated 27 min 17 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s ‘baboon problem’ targeted by National Center for Wildlife

Authorities have so far removed a number of baboon packs from Makkah and several holy sites. (Supplied)
  • Hafez Al-Zahrani: Baboons invade property, steal, attack, climb houses and scatter waste

MAKKAH; A Saudi program to remove growing numbers of baboons from urban and agricultural areas aims to prevent animal attacks and environmental damage.

The scheme, organized by the National Center for Wildlife in tandem with governmental authorities and experts from around the world, aims to address growing numbers of baboon attacks and the destruction of farmland in the Kingdom, particularly in the south.

Field surveys were carried out across 504 sites in Saudi Arabia to monitor local baboon numbers, the NCW said.

Solutions were then rolled out, including the installation of more than 300 safety panels, the launch of five national awareness campaigns and the creation of an e-service for reporting incidents.

The NCW has so far responded to more than 2,000 reports via its Fitri platform.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Ghazi Al-Yousifi, the owner of an almond farm in southern Taif, said that baboons move in large packs, sometimes up to 60 in number. They pose a direct threat to crops and food products.

• A farm owner in Baha, Hafez Al-Zahrani, said that tourists often feed baboons despite the presence of warning signs. This encourages food aggression.

Maps of vegetation, water and thermal cover of affected areas were also drafted, in addition to disease examinations of baboon samples.

Authorities have so far removed a number of baboon packs from Makkah and several holy sites.

Ghazi Al-Yousifi, the owner of an almond farm in southern Taif, said that baboons move in large packs, sometimes up to 60 in number. They pose a direct threat to crops and food products, he added.

They also threaten the safety of young children who play outdoors, Al-Yousifi said.

The public plays an important role in tackling the issue by stopping the direct and indirect feeding of baboons, which attracts growing numbers of the animals to residential neighborhoods, public roads and other populated areas, the NCW said.

A farm owner in Baha, Hafez Al-Zahrani, said that tourists often feed baboons despite the presence of warning signs. This encourages food aggression, he added, noting that packs of baboons are now known to aggressively approach and enter local residences.

Baboons invade property, steal, attack, climb houses and scatter waste, he added.

In 2023, the NCW will continue its efforts to mitigate and address the problem through sustainable solutions, including studies on baboon breeding.

The efforts aim to limit the damage caused by the animals, especially in tourist destinations across the south and southwest of the Kingdom.