Saudi woman has left Bangkok airport 'under care of' UN agency: Thai immigration official

Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun. Photograph:( Reuters )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Jan 07, 2019, 07.48 PM (IST)

The 18-year-old Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed al- Qunun has been moved out of the Bankok airport "under the care" of UN refugee agency.

Immigration chief Surachate Hakparn said, "She is allowed to stay... she is under the care of the UNHCR now. She left the airport with the UNHCR." 

Rahaf had been at Bangkok airport since Saturday when she was denied entry into the country by Thai immigration officials.

The Thai immigration officials and the Saudi Foreign Ministry have however denied her allegations that its embassy had confiscated her passport.

After announcing that Thailand "will not force her" to leave, Surachate told reporters late Monday that Rahaf would be "allowed to stay" after a meeting with officials from the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

"She is under the care of the UNHCR now but we also sent Thai security to help take care (of her)," Surachate told reporters at Suvarnabhumi airport.

He said Rahaf had told UNHCR officials she "wants to stay in Thailand for a while seeking asylum to a third country".

The agency "will take five days to consider her status" and another five days to arrange for travel, Surachate said, adding that he would meet with Saudi diplomats on Tuesday to explain Thailand's decision.  

Rahaf had locked herself up in a hotel room at the airport saying she is fleeing an abusive family in Saudi Arabia, and that she fears they will kill her if she returns.  

Thai immigration official on Monday said that they would not forcibly deport the 18-year-old Saudi girl Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun.

The official also assured that they would allow Rahaf to meet UN refugee officials.

Rahaf had been desperately demanding the intervention of UN in the case. 

Earlier during the day, she had posted several tweets asking for help and protection from UN.


Rahaf told Reuters she fled Kuwait while her family was visiting the Gulf country and 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," Qunun said by text and voice message from the hotel on Sunday.

"They will kill me," she said. "My life is in danger. My family threatens to kill me for the most trivial things."

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.

"They won't let me drive or travel. I am oppressed. I love life and work and I am very ambitious but my family is preventing me from living." 

(With input from agencies)

Story highlights

Immigration chief Surachate Hakparn said, 'She is allowed to stay... she is under the care of the UNHCR now. She left the airport with the UNHCR.'