UNHCR examining Saudi woman Qunun's asylum bid as family due in Bangkok

09 January, 2019, 11:28 | Author: Sue Mclaughlin
  • Will Be Killed If Sent Back: Saudi Woman Stopped From Entering Thailand

Thai officials say a young Saudi woman who was holed up in a Bangkok hotel room seeking asylum in Australia will be allowed to stay in Thailand while her case is evaluated by the United Nations refugee agency.

A Thai friend who is with Ms Alqunun at the hotel said Thai Immigration officers came to her room late on Sunday afternoon and told her she would be sent back to Saudi Arabia on Monday.

A Twitter statement from the Saudi embassy in Bangkok said Qunun was stopped by Thai authorities for "violating the (Thai) law".

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun remained barricaded in an airport hotel room while sending out desperate pleas for help over social media.

Robertson also said there's been clear coordination between the Thai government and the Saudis on her.

In a video posted to her Twitter account, Ms Alqunun had pushed a table up against the door of her hotel room, apparently to stop anyone from entering.

She claimed she fled Saudi Arabia amid fears her family would kill her for renouncing Islam.

While Saudi Arabia has gradually granted women more rights as part of an economic overhaul led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the conservative kingdom still applies a guardianship system that makes women legal dependents of male relatives. She said her travel documents had been forcibly seized from her on arrest. The woman revealed that she wanted to seek a refugee status in "any country that would protect me from getting harmed or killed due to leaving my religion and torture from my family".

The Thai government "needs to explain why diplomats from Saudi Arabia are allowed to walk in closed areas of the Bangkok airport, seizing one of their citizen's passports", he said.

Qunun said she planned to spend a few days in Thailand, a popular destination for medical treatment, so she would not spark suspicion when she left Kuwait.

Thai authorities say they weren't acting at the request of the Saudi government when they detained Alqunun.

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The ultra-conservative Saudi kingdom has always been criticized for imposing some of the world's toughest restrictions on women.

Since then, the head of Thailand's immigration police said Monday that Al-Qunun will not be sent anywhere against her wishes.

@rahaf84427714 just sent from her hotel room at the #Bangkok airport.

The UNHCR's representative in Thailand, Giuseppe de Vincentiis, told CNN on Tuesday that it was still assessing Rahaf Mohammed Al-Qunun's protection claims and it could take "several days to process the case and determine next steps".

On Monday evening local time, Thailand's chief of immigration police Surachate Hakparn confirmed that Ms Mohammed al-Qunun was "allowed to stay", and that she "left the airport with the UNHCR". "I know them. They kept telling me they will kill me if I do something wrong - they say that since I was a child".

"My brothers and family and the Saudi Embassy will be waiting for me in Kuwait", she told Reuters.

Rafah's father reportedly holds a position in Saudi government and told Thailand airport officials her daughter was mentally ill but could not provide any supporting medical documentation.

She said she believed she was stopped after her family appealed to Kuwait Airways. "Thailand is a land of smiles".

"They won't let me drive or travel".

An airline security official reported seeing her dragged out of the airport with her mouth, hands, and feet bound with duct tape.

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