The Saudi woman who made a desperate plea for asylum after landing at Bangkok airport has been placed “under the care” of the United Nations refugee agency, a Thai official said late Monday.
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun said she ran away from her family while travelling in Kuwait because they subjected her to physical and psychological abuse.
The 18-year-old said she had planned to seek asylum in Australia and feared she would be killed if repatriated by Thai immigration officials who stopped her during transit on Sunday.
Thai immigration chief Surachate Hakparn had said Sunday that Qunun was denied entry because of her lack of documents. But he made an abrupt about-face the next day, following a global media frenzy as the young woman pleaded on Twitter for different countries to help her. After announcing that Thailand “will not force her” to leave, Surachate told reporters late Monday that Qunun would be “allowed to stay” after a meeting with officials from the UN refugee agency UNHCR. “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.
He said Qunun had told UNHCR officials she “wants to stay in Thailand for a while while seeking asylum to a third country”. The agency “will take five days to consider her status” and another five days to arrange for travel, Surachate said, adding that he would meet with Saudi diplomats on Tuesday to explain Thailand’s decision.