The head of Thailand's immigration police said Monday that a young Saudi woman who was stopped in Bangkok as she was trying to travel to Australia to escape alleged abuse by her family will not be sent anywhere against her wishes.
Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun remained barricaded in an airport hotel room while sending out desperate pleas for help over social media.
The 18-year-old began posting on Twitter late Saturday after her passport was taken away when she arrived in the Thai capital on a flight from Kuwait. She has been appealing for aid from the United Nations refugee agency and anyone else who can help.
Earlier Thai immigration authorities denied Qunun’s allegations that they were acting at the behest of the Saudi government, saying she was refused entry to Thailand on Saturday night because she did not have the proper documents for a visa on arrival.
Thai immigration chief Surachate Hakparn said he had had no contact with Saudi officials or Thailand’s foreign minister before Qunun’s arrival. He said she was denied entry because she did not have a paid return ticket or a hotel reservation.
“She was over-exaggerating ... She fled her family from Saudi Arabia and arrived in Thailand but she didn’t have necessary documents to enter. Thai immigration had to deny her entry,” he said, describing such cases as standard procedure. (More).
The refugee agency announced Monday evening that Thai authorities had allowed its officials to meet with Alqunun, but declined to give any details of their meeting, citing confidentiality.
Earlier in the day,
Thailand's immigration police chief, Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn, said Alqunun's father would arrive Monday night, and that officials would see if the young woman was willing to depart with him.
"As of now, she does not wish to go back and we will not force her. She won't be sent anywhere tonight," Surachate said at a news conference at the airport where Alqunun is stuck.
On Twitter, Alqunun wrote of being in "real danger" if forced to return to her family in Saudi Arabia, and has claimed in media interviews that she could be killed. She told the BBC that she had renounced Islam and is fearful of her father's retaliation.
Alqunun's planned forced departure Monday morning was averted as she stayed in her hotel room, with furniture piled up against the door, photos she posted online showed.
While the Saudi Embassy in Thailand denies Saudi authorities are involved in attempts to stop Alqunun from traveling to Australia, the kingdom has in the past forcibly returned citizens home.
Saudi Arabia's Charge d’Affaires in Bangkok, Abdullah al- Shuaibi has confirmed that a Saudi girl who was with her father in Kuwait has managed to flee to Bangkok.
Her father lives between Hail and Kuwait and he is the one who filed a report related to her escape.
He told Okaz that the embassy in touch with the Thai authorities to ensure her return to the country. He added that they have been told that if she reached the legal age and her documents were legal and complete they will not be able to do so.
However, it has become clear that her documents are incomplete, including a hotel booking and a return ticket. Shuaibi denied that the embassy had withdrawn her passport. “No one from the embassy has met with her,” he said.
He said that the Thai authorities were the ones who confiscated her passport for violating the entry regulations and they are taking the appropriate action accordingly.