Thai court rejects bid to block deportation of Saudi woman

A Saudi woman was stopped by Saudi and Kuwaiti officials when she landed in Bangkok's airport and her travel document was forcibly taken from her

Rahaf Mohammed al Qunun says she ran away from her family while travelling in Kuwait because they subjected her to physical and psychological abuse.

"She is under the care of the UNHCR now but we also sent Thai security to help take care [of her]", Surachate told reporters at Suvarnabhumi airport.

"Saudi women fleeing their families can face severe violence from relatives, deprivation of liberty, and other serious harm if returned against their will", 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.

"We are very grateful that the Thai authorities did not send back (Qunun) against her will and are extending protection to her", he said.

Alqunun arrived in Bangkok on Saturday night intending to transit to Australia.

"We won't do that, we will adhere to the human rights principles under the rule of law", he said. She told the New York Times that she had managed to escape while in Kuwait because women there are allowed to travel on their own.

The announcement was made by Immigration chief Surachate Hakparn later this afternoon.

She said she was detained after leaving her plane in Bangkok and told she would be sent back to Kuwait.

The Saudi government demanded that she be sent back to her family immediately, and for a while it seemed like the Thai government would oblige.

"It could take several days to process the case and determine next steps", the UNHCR representative in Thailand, Giuseppe de Vicentiis, said in a statement.

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. The Guardian confirmed on Monday Qunun had a valid three-month tourist visa for Australia, issued to her Saudi passport.

The NPS law firm said on Facebook on Monday that the Bangkok Criminal Court turned down its request in the case of 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun because there was not enough evidence and it was not clear who she is. She later barricaded herself in the hotel room, blocking the door with a mattress. "She received a threat from her cousin - he said he wants to see her blood, he wants to kill her". 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.

"UNHCR consistently advocates that refugees and asylum seekers - having been confirmed or claimed to be in need of global protection - can not be returned to their countries of origin according to the principle of non-refoulement", the UNHCR said in a statement.

Ms Qunun said she was being held at an airport hotel by diplomatic and airline staff, despite having a visa to travel to Australia. She was forced to return to Saudi Arabia and was not publicly heard from again, according to activists tracking her whereabouts.

Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director for Human Rights Watch, said Alqunun needs protection.

The ultra-conservative kingdom has some of the world's toughest restrictions on women, including a guardianship system that allows male family members to make decisions on behalf of female relatives.

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

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