Father of Saudi woman in Thailand seeks meeting, officials meet to discuss asylum case

Thailand officials on Tuesday continued mulling the fate of an 18-year-old Saudi woman seeking asylum from her allegedly abusive family, even as the woman's father and brother arrived in Bangkok in hopes of meeting with their runaway relative.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun’s father's arrival in Thailand came several days after his daughter arrived in the country and locked herself into an airport hotel room after immigration officials confiscated her passport.

Her urgent tweets for help garnered tens of thousands of followers and the attention of the U.N.’s refugee agency, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

In this Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, image made from video released by Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun/Human Rights Watch, Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun views her mobile phone as she sits barricaded in a hotel room at an international airport in Bangkok, Thailand. Alqunun says she is fleeing abuse by her family and wants asylum in Australia. (Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun/Human Rights Watch via AP)

In this Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, image made from video released by Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun/Human Rights Watch, Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun views her mobile phone as she sits barricaded in a hotel room at an international airport in Bangkok, Thailand. Alqunun says she is fleeing abuse by her family and wants asylum in Australia. (Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun/Human Rights Watch via AP)

Alqunun says she fled her family amid abuse from her father and brothers after she cut her hair and renounced Islam, which is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.

"My brothers and family and the Saudi embassy will be waiting for me in Kuwait," she told Reuters earlier. “My life is in danger. My family threatens to kill me for the most trivial things.”

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Public pressure prompted Thai officials to return her passport and let her temporarily stay in Thailand.

Alqunun’s father and brother arrived in the Thai capital, but it will ultimately be up to the UN refugee agency to decide if they're allowed to see the 18-year-old, immigration chief Surachate Hakpan said, according to Reuters.

“The father and brother want to go and talk to Rahaf but the U.N. will need to approve such talk,” he told reporters.

On Twitter, she expressed fear of such a meeting.

A spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees at its Geneva headquarters, Babar Baloch, said Tuesday it's premature to say what will happen next, but that it could take several days for the agency to look into Alqunun's claims. He said it's "too early to tell" if she will be granted asylum or refugee status.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has tried to distance itself from accusations it tried to block Alqunun’s effort to flee her family and seek asylum abroad.

In repeated statements, including one issued Tuesday, the Saudi Embassy in Thailand has said it is only monitoring her situation.

The statement, which described Alqunun's case as a "family affair," said the Kingdom did not demand her deportation to Saudi Arabia.

The embassy — and Thai officials — earlier also said that Alqunun was stopped by Thai authorities in Bangkok because she did not have a return ticket, a hotel reservation or itinerary to show she was a tourist, which raised a red flag regarding her reasons for the trip.

SAUDI WOMAN, 18, BARRICADED IN THAI HOTEL ROOM TEMPORARILY ADMITTED INTO COUNTRY, MEETS WITH UN REFUGEE WORKERS

Surachate told reporters Tuesday that Saudi diplomats told him they are satisfied with how her case had been handled.

"The position of two countries on this matter is the same — that the priority is to provide her safety. We are both concerned for Miss Rahaf's safety and well-being," said Surachate. "The Saudi charge d'affaires said he is satisfied and expressed confidence on the work of Thai immigration, of the Thai government, and of the Foreign Ministry yesterday."

In this photo released by the Immigration Police, Chief of Immigration Police Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn, right, walks with Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun before leaving the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. A Saudi woman who says she is fleeing abuse by her family and wants asylum in Australia has sent out desperate pleas for help over social media. Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, 18, began posting on Twitter late Saturday after her passport was taken away when she arrived on a flight from Kuwait. (Immigration police via AP)

In this photo released by the Immigration Police, Chief of Immigration Police Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn, right, walks with Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun before leaving the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. A Saudi woman who says she is fleeing abuse by her family and wants asylum in Australia has sent out desperate pleas for help over social media. Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, 18, began posting on Twitter late Saturday after her passport was taken away when she arrived on a flight from Kuwait. (Immigration police via AP)

The Human Rights Watch said the 18-year-old traveled to Thailand for a connecting flight to Australia, where she hoped to seek asylum.

Australia national broadcaster ABC reported the country's Home Affairs Department announced late Tuesday it would consider Alqunun's application for asylum if she was found to be a genuine refugee, and called on the Thai authorities and UNHCR to assess her claim as quickly as possible.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.