Thailand vows not to deport Saudi woman

Published: January 07, 2019 18:09:34 | Updated: January 08, 2019 12:23:14

The head of Thailand's immigration police has said the country will not deport a young Saudi woman who fled her family at the weekend, due to concerns for her safety.

Thai immigration officials had tried to return Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, to Kuwait, where her family is.

She refused to board a flight to Kuwait City on Monday, and barricaded herself into her hotel room at Bangkok airport, reports BBC.

The teenager said she believed her family would kill her if she went back.

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

"My life is in danger. My family threatens to kill me for the most trivial things."

Rights groups including Human Rights Watch have expressed grave concerns for Ms Mohammed al-Qunun, who arrived at Bangkok's international airport on a flight from Kuwait. She had travelled to Thailand for a connecting flight to Australia, where she hoped to seek asylum.

She has said she will not leave her hotel room until she is allowed to meet the UN refugee agency.

Melissa Fleming, head of communications at the refugee agency, tweeted at 18:25 (11:25 GMT) on Monday that "Our Bangkok protection team is meeting with @Rahaf84427714 now".

Thailand's chief of immigration police Surachate Hakparn said on Monday afternoon local time that the country would "protect her as best we can".

"She is now under the sovereignty of Thailand, no-one and no embassy can force her to go anywhere," he said. "We will talk to her and do whatever she requests.

"Since she escaped trouble to seek our help... we will not send anyone to their death."

An injunction filed by Thai lawyers in Bangkok criminal court to stop the deportation was dismissed earlier on Monday.

Thailand is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention, and provides no legal protection to asylum-seekers - although there are more than 100,000 refugees in the country.

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