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Thai official gives a durian to Jack Ma Yun of Alibaba Group Holding on April 19 as Thailand start selling durians on TMALL.   © Reuters
Tea Leaves

Thai junta reaps bounty of 'durian diplomacy'

Bangkok turns controversial fruit into diplomatic 'secret weapon'

KAVI CHONGKITTAVORN | China

The intriguing role of the strange-looking -- and even stranger-smelling -- durian fruit in contemporary Sino-Thai relations is little known. Despite its infamously pungent smell and prickly exterior, the so-called "king of fruits" (known as tu-rien in Thai and liu lian in standard Chinese) helped forge Thai-Chinese diplomatic relations in 1975 when Thai Prime Minister Kukrit Pramoj visited Beijing. He brought along 160 Thai delegates and some special gifts for Chinese leaders, including 200 durians as well as Thai beer and whiskey, to help cement relations.

From then, the Chinese public developed a taste for Thai durians. Their enthusiasm was recently highlighted when Chinese consumers bought 80,000 durians in just one minute on Alibaba Group Holding's Tmall, the Chinese online shopping site. The durians on offer, weighing a total of 200 tons, were snapped up for 199 yuan ($31) for an individual order of 4.5kg to 5kg.

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