Saudi Arabia denies requesting extradition of woman in Thailand: embassy

Blanche Robertson
January 9, 2019

The young woman, Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, had also tweeted: "I had been threatened to be killed before and they aren't afraid to threaten me in public".

The official did not confirm or deny if the visa had been revoked, but said it would make no difference to her bid to reach Australia.

It will take the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) "several days" to determine whether Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, needs worldwide protection, the organization's representative in Thailand said.

In a separate statement to Australia's The New Daily, the government said it is making a representation to the Thai government and UNHCR's office in Bangkok to assess Alqunun's claim "expeditiously".

The UNHCR said on Tuesday that it would take time to process Ms Qunun's application, and its officials continued to interview her at an undisclosed location.

Hunt said he had spoken to immigration minister David Coleman about Qunun's case late on Tuesday.

"The claims made by Alqunun that she may be harmed if returned to Saudi Arabia are deeply concerning", a Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said. However, in repeated statements, including one issued Tuesday, the Saudi Embassy in Thailand said it is only monitoring her situation.

Her urgent pleas for help over Twitter from an airport hotel room garnered tens of thousands of followers and the attention of the UN's refugee agency, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. "My family threatens to kill me for the most trivial things". "Please help me." Instead, she was reportedly "dragged onto a plane from Manila to Riyadh with her mouth taped shut and her arms and legs bound".

'The father and brother want to go and talk to Rahaf but the United Nations will need to approve such talk, ' General Surachate told reporters. She was planning to seek asylum in Australia but was intercepted at an airport transit zone in Bangkok.

The Thai authorities obliged and detained Rahaf at an airport hotel until she could be deported back to Kuwait on Sunday.

In her pleas online, the young woman specifically asked for asylum in the United States, the UK, Canada and Australia. "She fled hardship. Thailand is a land of smiles". We will not do that.

Asylum seekers gain little sympathy from Thai authorities, who are accused of appeasing repressive countries in a diplomatic charm offensive that targets government relations at the expense of human rights.

Since Australia has expressed concern in the past about women's rights in Saudi Arabia, it should "come forward and offer protection for this young woman", Pearson said.

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Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun ran away from her family during a trip to Kuwait and is now hoping she can flee to Australia.

So far, family members don't appear to have commented publicly on the allegations of abuse.

Thai authorities initially said Qunun would be sent back, but they abruptly changed course as the story pin-balled across social media.

She said she had asserted her independence, but had been forced to pray and wear a hijab and alleged she had been beaten by her brother. "I want asylum", she added in a video uploaded to twitter.

However, Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director with Human Rights Watch, revealed that Canada "really worked very hard" to "persuade" Thailand not to expel her.

"I wish you had taken her phone, it would have been better than (taking) her passport", the official said.

Apostasy is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi women runaways have increasingly turned to social media to amplify their calls for help.

In 2017, Dina Ali Lasloom triggered a firestorm online when she was stopped en route to Australia, where she planned to seek asylum.

Her fate on arriving back in Saudi Arabia remains unknown.

In October, the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey further heightened tensions and put global scrutiny on the country's human rights record.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had styled himself as a reformer, with women recently granted the right to drive, but these cases raise questions over how the regime exercises control.

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