Saudi woman leaves Bangkok airport hotel room

Posted January 10, 2019

Thailand's immigration police chief met Tuesday with officials from the Saudi Embassy in Bangkok, as Saudi Arabia tried to distance itself from accusations that it attempted to block a young woman's effort to flee from her family and seek asylum overseas. "This should be the standard for any individual who claims that his or her life is in danger". "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.

"If she prefers to travel to Australia, we will coordinate with the (Australian) embassy for her. We did not send her back to die", he said on Facebook.

Her plight mirrors that of other Saudi women who in recent years have turned to social media to amplify their calls for help while trying to flee abusive families.

Gen. Surachate Hakparn, said at a news conference at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, where Alqunun is staying, that he would meet with United Nations refugee officials to discuss allowing them to see her later Monday. "I know them. They kept telling me they will kill me if I do something wrong - they say that since I was a child", she said. Her story has also put Saudi Arabia's restrictive guardianship laws, which govern many aspects of women's lives, back under worldwide scrutiny. Does she still hold concerns about her situation there in Thailand?

"Any application by Ms Al-Qunun for a humanitarian visa will be carefully considered once the UNHCR process has concluded", a Department of Home Affairs official told AFP.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch, said the move by Ms Alqunun's father was concerning.

In addition to facing punishment for "moral" crimes, women can also become the target of "honour killings" at the hands of their families, activists say.

Thailand's Immigration Police Chief, Surachet Hakpal, has also confirmed al-Qunun is safe from deportation.

The Saudi teenager said she was certain she would be jailed if she were sent back to Saudi Arabia.

Alqunun posted another video of a self-made barricade behind her hotel room door demanding asylum from the UN.

Its latest statement, which described Alqunun's case as a "family affair", said Saudi Arabia did not demand her deportation back home.

Surachate said Alqunun's father and brother were due to arrive soon in Bangkok, but that it was her decision whether to meet with them.

Desperate, al-Qunun barricaded herself inside an airport hotel room, and demanded to meet with United Nations officials.

Surachate later alleged that Kuwait Airways had been at fault for allowing Alqunun to board her flight to Thailand without having proper travel documents. However, a friend of Al-Qunun told The Guardian that she is an "ex-Muslim and has a very strict family". I've seen Rahaf's Australian visa which was valid - but yesterday when she was trying to log into her immigration online profile that appeared to no longer be working? She fled her family from Saudi Arabia and arrived in Thailand but she didn't have necessary documents to enter.

Another Saudi woman, Dina Ali Lasloom, was stopped in transit in the Philippines in April 2017 when she attempted to flee her family.

UNHCR consistently advocates that refugees and asylum seekers - having been confirmed or claimed to be in need of worldwide protection - can not be returned to their countries of origin according to the principle of non-refoulement.

Rahaf Mohammed Mutlaq Alqunun, 18, flew from Kuwait on a ticket she had to Australia.

An Australian government spokesman said the claims made by Qunun "that she may be harmed if returned to Saudi Arabia are deeply concerning" and they are monitoring the case "closely".