‘Thailand Girl’ leaves Bangkok airport with UN

Geneva Stokes
January 9, 2019

The Saudi national said she was fleeing her abusive family, seeking asylum in any western country that would have her.

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

UNHCR has been following developments closely and immediately sought access from the Thai authorities to meet with Ms. Mohammed Al-qunun, 18, to assess her need for worldwide protection.

The Australian government said it was monitoring the case closely highlighting that "the claims made by Ms Alqunun that she may be harmed if returned to Saudi Arabia are deeply concerning".

He added that Thai authorities contacted the "Saudi Arabia embassy to coordinate".

"We will talk to her and do whatever she requests".

The teenager claims she was abducted and had her passport confiscated by Saudi diplomatic staff in Thailand, despite having a visa to travel to Australia.

Officials were trying to send Alqunun back to Kuwait City on a 11:15 flight, but because she refused to leave her hotel room, the flight left without her.

Ms Mohammed al-Qunun drew attention to her plight through social media posts over the weekend.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, a Saudi woman who claims to be fleeing her country and family and is now in Bangkok, Thailand, is shown in this undated photo obtained by Reuters from social media.

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

It's for these reasons she believes her life would be in danger if she was to return to her home country. "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.

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The 18-year-old fled from Kuwait during a family vacation and arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport Saturday night.

But there are reports from Qunun supporters that her visa to Australia has been cancelled.

Pearson said Australia has a moral obligation to help Qunun.

"She is now under the sovereignty of Thailand; no-one and no embassy can force her to go anywhere", he said.

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

"I love life and work and I am very ambitious but my family is preventing me from living".

Activists are concerned about what Saudi Arabia will do after Thai authorities reversed a decision to expel her and allowed Qunun to enter the country under the care of the UNHCR.

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. The deeply conservative Muslim country lifted a ban on women drivers past year.

Right groups have rushed to assist Qunun following her pleas on social media.

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said it was following Alqunun's case and "trying to seek access from the Thai authorities" to meet with her to assess her need for worldwide protection.

"This principle is recognised as customary global law, and is also enshrined in Thailand's other treaty obligations", the UNHCR statement said. "She's not safe in Thailand ..."

Over the course of the last 48 hours, Alqunun live-tweeted her attempt to not be forced back to Saudi Arabia.

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