By his own reckoning, Mohammed Said Khoja is the loneliest person in Bangkok. The Saudi Arabian charge d'affaires sits in his embassy in fear of his life trying to solve the most bizarre of international scandals - the largely forgotten 'Saudi jewellery case'. Thai police guard the door but, a Muslim man of honour, Mr Khoja continues to arm himself with a silver-plated pistol and constant judo and karate training. 'I can shoot better than my Thai guards. I know one day I may have to,' he says. When he first arrived it was for three months. The brief was straightforward - get back the stolen jewels and ensure justice is served on the killers of four diplomats and a Saudi businessman. After nine years and as many Thai prime ministers, he has yet to get satisfaction. The trail started with the audacious theft from Prince Faisal's palace of 90 kilograms of jewels - including a priceless diamond the size of a pigeon's egg. It has degenerated into a tangle of deceit and the killings of, Mr Khoja claims, as many as 18 people. The Saudi royal family is still waiting for much of their US$20 million (about HK$155 million) worth of jewels as well as explanations for the deaths. His ultimate master, King Fahd, insists Mr Khoja must remain. 'I have requested my government to be transferred but they refuse . . . This is my destiny,' says Mr Khoja, now 65 and worried about a second heart attack. He has long given up hope of joining his wife, three daughters and son in peaceful retirement in Riyadh anytime soon. 'I spend all my time in my apartment or my office. I am too scared to go to the shopping malls, I am too scared to go to the park. I cannot go to the countryside.' All cufflinks and pinstripes, Mr Khoja is an old-school international smoothie who was once his country's top foreign consul. Courtly and expressive, he cuts through depression with wit but can show a flash of anger at a perceived insult. He sits, chain-smoking, surrounded by files in his office in Bangkok's Sathorn Road business quarter. An oxygen bottle stands nearby for dizzy spells as he renews his push for answers in a case mired in state-of-the-art incompetence, corruption and cover-up. He does so knowing that if finally some sort of classic Thai compromise is finally hashed together in a bid to get relations back on track, it will simply not be enough. 'I believe my officials are very stubborn . . . If something happens, they do not forget about it. The Thai way as I see it is that they love to cover up, they love to find a scapegoat, they love to find a 'hanger' to hang things on. That is not enough. We will need more than that. We need something concrete. We need a sense of justice.' Saudi Arabia, he believes, has nothing to lose as it waits. 'It is Thailand that has lost.' Despite the cynicism, Mr Khoja claims he feels a cautious new optimism as several factors converge. Like many, Mr Khoja believes new Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai is a leader of honesty and integrity. In recent weeks, Mr Khoja has met Mr Chuan's Interior Minister Sanan Kachornprasart, an official he also respects. He believes he has impressed upon the new prime minister the need for action, particularly over the killings. During Mr Chuan's last tenure in 1995, far more was achieved than with any other administration. His Democrat Party has taken over at a time too when economic reality means Thailand needs all the international friends it can get. At the time relations soured in 1989, 14 jumbo jet flights a week carried thousands of free-spending Saudi Arabian men to the bars and bordellos of Bangkok and Pattaya. Thai migrant workers flew the other way. Now Bangkok's famous Grace Hotel, the former Arab hangout, is dark and grimy, and Pattaya is choked with less wealthy Russians. Just 5,000 Thais remain in Saudi Arabia, a far cry from the 500,000 migrant labourers toiling there 10 years ago. One of them was Kriangkrai Techamong. A long-time servant of Prince Faisal, he eventually earned enough trust to clean the prince's private palace while the prince was on holiday. An unguarded bedroom on the second floor glittered with loot. Within seven days, he was scaling a ladder at night to execute a swiftly-hatched plan. He speedily stuffed bags with the lush Middle Eastern-style baubles and filled his shirt with cash, hiding it all in the basement of the guest mansion next door. For several days he took time off his duties to repeatedly fill over-sized overalls with gold and diamonds. Greed apparently consumed the former northeastern peasant, and his progress was simply not fast enough. He wheeled a crate of apples into the grounds, saying he would be sending fruit home to his family. He packed the crate with more gems and watches and filled several more bags. Suddenly a pre-arranged telegram arrived, reading simply: 'Father sick come back home soon.' A first-class ticket was booked immediately. By late August 1989, Kriangkrai was back home in his northeastern village, finally living like a king himself. He was handing piles of jewels to amazed friends, building new houses for old girlfriends and spreading his largesse through local temples. Slowly his cache moved out through a myriad of hands. Some was buried for his own protection, other items were sold through middlemen at absurdly low prices. Word of Kriangkrai was spreading. The Saudis, meanwhile, had asked Thailand for official help. The then-respected detective Lieutenant-General Chalor Kerdthes was on the case and soon on Kriangkrai's glittering trail. Within five months of his return, Kriangkrai was arrested and other evidence nailed four other brokers. Chalor was feted as a hero as he flew on a private plane to Saudi Arabia to present the jewels to Prince Faisal in March 1990. On his return, it all turned a little darker. Just before the trip on February 1, an uneasy peace following the assassination of the Saudi Arabian Third Secretary near the Bangkok Embassy a year before was shattered by news that three Saudi diplomatic officers had been gunned down outside their homes. Twelve days later, a prominent Saudi businessman involved in the Thai workers' trade disappeared. Already incensed over the Third Secretary's unexplained assassination, now the palace grimly revealed that most of the returned loot was fake. An estimated 70 per cent of the total cache was still missing - including a prized heirloom, the Blue Diamond. Reports spread of a second gem theft from police HQ. The first of many rumours spread that senior police and other officials had pocketed part of the haul. Chalor himself was suddenly in the frying pan. Reportedly, he had ignored procedure and briefly stashed the haul at home. No master list was ever drawn up. By late 1991, Chalor and his colleagues were arrested on fraud and malfeasance charges. A string of internal inquiries and official investigations ground to a halt during Thailand's political crisis of the time. The charges were dropped and then pressed again. After a lightning court case Kriangkrai, meanwhile, was released with a royal pardon after just two years and seven months. He is thought to live quietly in Thailand's poor far north, far removed from the violence that followed. Gem dealer Santi Srithanakan, linked to the disposal of some of the jewels, was never arrested. By this time, Mr Khoja was hard at work in Bangkok and reflecting considerable diplomatic fury at the apparent deceit and lack of official will. Relations had ground to a halt. Riyadh banned its nationals from travelling to Thailand and made visas for Thais hard to obtain. Mr Chuan's first government was in power and fresh investigations into the killings and the whereabouts of the real jewels were pledged. Slowly, 30 kg of loot turned up through anonymous tip-offs, hidden in parks and outside police stations. Amid a slew of news of internal probes and suspensions of senior police, came a bombshell - an event that now shows how deep the rot had gone. The wife and son of key suspect Santi, then in hiding, were found dead with broken necks in their Mercedes-Benz on the Friendship Highway. Despite a top-level insistence that they were murdered, forensic institute commander Major-General Dr Thassana Suwanjutha repeatedly stressed they died in an auto accident. A police officer later revealed sweeping force involvement and testified the two had been beaten to death with a metal pipe. Dr Thassana quietly retired in disgrace. Santi has since gone to ground. Chalor was implicated and now waits, professing his innocence, in the sweaty, crowded confines of Bangkok's Klong Phrem Prison as his cases drag through the courts. 'If I really wanted to get someone,' he said in a recent interview as he demanded bail, 'I could do it from in here, because I have my own people who are very loyal to me.' Mr Khoja describes Chalor as a 'highly intelligent' figure who involved a wide range of senior people in his crimes for his own protection, and says the wider cover-up runs deeper and higher. His priority is no longer Chalor but those involved with the deaths of his nationals. The envoy believes the murders of the three diplomats and the businessman were linked to the case, despite the fact that all four worked in highly lucrative and scam-prone labour recruitment. The businessman, he has claimed, had called Riyadh the day before his death with news of police involvement in the theft. Despite the best efforts of the first Chuan government, work descended into highly confusing chaos. At various times, Thai officials have linked the killings to four unrelated theories, including obscure terrorist plots and drug deals. Mr Khoja stresses they have never provided any substantial evidence. 'The problem is that they know who did it and there are mysterious matters in the middle of it.' When pushed to elaborate, he says 'the police'. Despite his knowledge, he claims the Thais must solve the case themselves and take appropriate action finally to close the files. Some involved have retired, but others are still active. Furthermore, some senior police previously tarred are innocent, he says, and entirely supportive of his efforts. Without making promises, the new interior minister, Mr Sanan, has pledged to do his best. 'We will do what we can to finally settle these cases. After so many years the evidence may have been lost but we will do our best,' he says. While he gets a grudging respect from some officials, including several he knows personally, Mr Khoja is loathed in other quarters - not surprisingly, among the police. Privately, several senior Chuan administration officials say they believe he will get nowhere after so much time, even with the best will. Ordinary Thais have also expressed both bemusement and disquiet. Back in 1994, during a dramatic public speech Mr Khoja delivered at a top Bangkok hotel, one woman stood up and demanded he seek an urgent compromise. 'There has been too much blood . . . We are a Buddhist country. We have been completely demoralised.' By way of settlement, she suggested ordering replacement jewels from De Beers. Much of the loot, after all, 'looked like junk to me', she said.