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Thailand says will not forcibly deport Saudi teenage runaway Rahaf al-Qunun Open in fullscreen

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Thailand says will not forcibly deport Saudi teenage runaway Rahaf al-Qunun

For runaway Saudi women, fleeing can be a matter of life and death [Twitter]

Date of publication: 7 January, 2019

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Thai officials have said they will not forcibly deport a Saudi teenager, who has fled her family to seek asylum in Australia.

Thai officials have said they will not forcibly deport a Saudi teenager, who has fled her family to seek asylum in Australia and is being held in an airport hotel room in Bangkok.

Immigration chief Surachate Hakparn said on Monday that 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun would not be sent back to Saudi Arabia, where she says her family will "kill her".

"If she does not want to leave, we will not force her," Hakparn said at a press conference at Suvarnabhumi airport.

He said he would meet with United Nations refugee officials to discuss allowing them to see her later on Monday and that if Thai authorities decide to not repatriate her they will have provide reasons to Riyadh.

Qunun is currently barricaded her hotel room while sending out desperate pleas for help over Twitter.

She began posting late on Saturday after her passport was taken away when she arrived in Bangkok on a flight from Kuwait.

A planned forced departure Monday morning was averted as she stayed in her room, with furniture piled up against the door, photos she posted online showed.

Qunun wrote of being in "real danger" if forced to return to her family in Saudi Arabia, and has claimed she could be killed.

She has said that she has renounced Islam and is fearful of her father, who a governor in Saudi Arabia.

"My father and the Saudi embassy are trying to accuse me of being mentally ill and unaware of what I am doing. They have forged a medical document saying this," she added.

She said she was stopped by Saudi and Kuwaiti officials when she arrived in Thailand and her travel document was forcibly taken from her, a claim backed by Human Rights Watch.

Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry released a statement on Twitter from its Bangkok embassy, disputing her account.

"Her passport was not impounded by the Saudi embassy," it said, adding that she was stopped by Thai authorities for "violating the law".

The incident comes against the backdrop of intense scrutiny of Saudi Arabia over its investigation and handling of the shocking murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year, which has renewed criticism of the kingdom's rights record.

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

That includes a guardianship system that allows men to exercise arbitrary authority to make decisions on behalf of their female relatives.

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