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Saudi teen fleeing family won’t be deported: Thailand

This article is more than 12 months old

18-year-old cites abuse and says her family will kill her

BANGKOK/DUBAI: Thailand yesterday reversed plans to expel an 18-year-old Saudi woman stranded at Bangkok airport after fleeing her family from Kuwait due to safety concerns, the country's immigration chief Surachate Hakparn said.

Latest reports say she has since left the airport under the care of a UN agency.

Ms Rahaf Mohammed Al Qunun had been at Bangkok airport since Saturday when she was denied entry by Thai immigration officials, who reject her accusations that she was detained at the request of Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry denied her allegations that its embassy had confiscated her passport, saying in a tweet that she was stopped at the airport for violating Thai immigration laws.

Ms Rahaf posted a video on Twitter yesterday of her barricading her hotel door with a table and a mattress.

She said she fled Kuwait while her family was visiting the Gulf country, and she had planned to travel from Thailand to Australia to seek asylum.

She said she was detained after leaving her plane in Bangkok and told she would be sent back to Kuwait.

"My brothers and family and the Saudi embassy will be waiting for me in Kuwait," Ms Rahaf said by text and voice message from the hotel on Sunday. "They will kill me. My life is in danger."

Asked why she was seeking refuge in Australia, she said: "Physical, emotional and verbal abuse and being imprisoned inside the house for months. They threaten to kill me and prevent me from continuing my education."

Her family could not immediately be reached for comment. Ms Rahaf said her family was powerful in Saudi society but she did not identify them.Saudi culture and guardianship policy requires women to have permission from a male relative to work, travel, marry, and even get some medical treatment. The deeply conservative Muslim country lifted a ban on women drivers last year.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said Thailand should not send Ms Rahaf back to her family because she says she faces danger.

AUSTRALIAN VISA

Ms Rahaf said she had obtained an Australian visa and booked a flight. She said she had planned to spend a few days in Thailand so she would not spark suspicion when she left Kuwait.

"When I landed at the airport, someone came and said he would process the (Thai) visa, but he took my passport. He came back with what seemed to be airport security and said that my parents objected and said I must return to Saudi Arabia via Kuwait Airways," she said.

She said she believed she was stopped after her family appealed to Kuwait Airways. A spokesman for Kuwait Airways said he had no information about the case.

Mr Surachate earlier said she was denied entry because she did not have a paid return ticket or hotel reservation.

"She was over-exaggerating... She fled her family from Saudi Arabia and arrived in Thailand, but she didn't have necessary documents to enter."

He has told reporters that he would meet the The UN Refugee Agency to discuss Ms Rahaf's asylum plans.

Human rights lawyer Nadthasiri Bergman said she filed an injunction earlier yesterday to prevent Ms Rahaf's deportation. - REUTERS, AFP

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