Saudi teen seeking asylum can stay in Thailand for a week

A Saudi woman, who landed at Bangkok’s airport late on Saturday after fleeing her family holidaying in Kuwait, can temporarily stay in Thailand, immigration police said after arranging a meeting between her and UN refugee officials, multiple agencies report.

Police Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn told local media that 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun can enter Thailand under the protection of UN High
Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) officials who will evaluate her case within a week.

Earlier in the day, Qunun resisted Thai authorities’ deportation move by barricading herself in her hotel room in the transit area.

She refused to leave the room until a meeting is arranged for her with UNHCR officials to apply for asylum in Australia where she was heading to.

Police officials and airport staff said Qunun has left the airport to an undisclosed destination in Bangkok.

Qunun’s reaction comes after Thai authorities and the Saudi embassy in Bangkok said she will be put on a flight back to Kuwait where most of her family members live.

Earlier, Human Rights Watch appealed to Thai authorities not to deport Qunun arguing that she may lose her liberty and face severe punishment from her family if she was returned against her will.

Qunun has renounced Islam and fears she would be killed by her family waiting for her at the Kuwait City airport.

In her tweets after being detained late on Saturday at Bangkok airport, Qunun appealed to the Thai government to stop her deportation and start her asylum process.

Asylum seekers cannot be returned to their country of origin if their life is under threat.

In her tweets, Qunun also urged passengers present in the airport’s transit area to protest against her departure.

Qunun claimed she ran away from her family as they physically and psychologically abused her.

Qunun said she has an Australian visa and she was about to catch a connecting flight from Bangkok.

Thai authorities cooperated with Saudi and Kuwaiti embassies and helped their officials to accost Qunun when she landed at Suvarnabhumi airport late on Saturday.

According to Qunun, a Saudi diplomat seized her travel document. Thai police said they were not aware of the incident. Saudi officials denied seizing her passport.

In April last year, a Saudi woman from Kuwait via Philippines in transit to Australia was taken back to Saudi Arabia by her family from Manila airport.

Before being taken away, Dina Ali Lasloom, 24, sent a message on a tourist’s phone that her family would kill her. Her fate after returning to Saudi Arabia remains unknown.

The latest incident in Bangkok comes as rights groups and democratic countries keep a close watch on Saudi Arabia’s rights record after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul embassy late last year.