Thai police say they will not deport Saudi woman claiming to escape abusive family
A Saudi woman who was stopped in Thailand while seeking refugee status in Australia to escape alleged abuse by her family will not be deported against her wishes, said Thailand's Immigration Police chief.
Maj. Gen. Sarachute Hakparn told reporters at Bangkok's main international airport on Monday that Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun will be allowed to meet with U.N. refugee officials. He also said Thai authorities would need to explain to Saudi Arabia why it decided not to send her back so as not to affect the countries' relations.
Alqunun, 18, tweeted Saturday that officials in Bangkok confiscated her passport and that she was in "real danger." She said airport officials were forcing her to return to her family under pressure from Saudi Arabia. On Monday, an unconfirmed tweet on her account said a "friend" took over her Twitter handle because Alqunun was being "dragged" to a plane.
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Alqunun wrote that she'd escaped Kuwait, where she was vacationing with her family, and traveled to Thailand with the intention of seeking asylum in Australia. She's tweeted more than 80 times since Saturday — including pleas to President Donald Trump — and posted a copy of her passport to provide evidence of her identity.
She told Human Rights Watch that when she arrived in Bangkok on Saturday, someone from the Saudi Embassy took her passport at the airport, and said that both Saudi and Thai officials told her she had to return to Kuwait on Monday morning, where her father and brother were waiting.
The teen said her family was beating her, threatening to kill her, and forced her to remain in her room for six months for cutting her hair.
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Alqunun spoke to The Associated Press from the hotel room where she was being held, and said someone took her passport after telling her she could obtain a visa for Thailand. She said an hour later, without elaborating, that several people approached her to say they knew she had run away and her family wanted her back.
Saudi diplomat Abdullah al-Shuaibi denied the kingdom was involved in any way. He was quoted in Saudi media reports saying Thai officials stopped Alqunun because she did not appear to have a return ticket, a hotel reservation or itinerary to show she was a tourist.
Saudi Arabia requires that a woman have the consent of a male relative — usually a father or husband — to obtain a passport, travel abroad or marry.
The diplomat said the Saudi Embassy had no authority to stop anyone at the airport and that the decision rested with Thai officials. He also said the embassy was "monitoring the situation."
A tweet from Alqunun's account Monday, seemingly posted by a friend, said Alqunun was "being dragged to the airplane ... she will be deported to Kuwait now."
Fox News' Bradford Betz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.