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UPDATE: Saudi embassy in Bangkok distances itself from al-Qunun story

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“Al-Qunun says she doesn’t want to meet with her father or brother.”

The Thai immigration police chief yesterday met with Saudi Embassy officials in Bangkok as Saudi Arabia tried to distance itself from accusations that it tried to block a young woman trying to flee her family and seek asylum in Australia.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport from Kuwait on the weekend after slipping away from a family holiday. She’s accused her family abusing of psychologically and physically abusing her.

The 18 year old was stopped by officials in Thailand who confiscated her passport. She was ‘in transit’ for an onward flight to Australia but claims that Saudi officials were ‘waiting for her at arrival gate’.

Al-Qunun has alleged many times that Saudi officials were involved in the seizure of her passport. But the Saudi Embassy in Bangkok claims it is only ‘monitoring her situation’.

A statement from the Saudi Embassy describes al-Qunun’s case as a “family affair,” and that the kingdom did not demand her deportation to Saudi Arabia.

The embassy, along with Thai officials, earlier said that al-Qunun was stopped by Thai authorities in Bangkok because she did not have a return ticket, a hotel reservation or itinerary to show she was a tourist, which appeared to have raised a flag about the reasons for her trip. Conflicting and changing stories from stakeholders in the story continue to muddy the true situation.

Thailand’s immigration police chief Surachate Hakparn says that Saudi diplomats told him yesterday (Tuesday) they were satisfied with how her case was being handled.

“The position of two countries on this matter is the same – that the priority is to provide her safety. We are both concerned for Miss Rahaf’s safety and well-being.”

Al-Qunun’s brother and father are arriving in Bangkok today but she has expressed fears of such a meeting through her Twitter account.

A spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees at its Geneva headquarters, Babar Baloch, says it’s premature to say what will happen next but that it could take several days for the agency to look into al-Qunun’s claims.

Australia’s national broadcaster, the ABC, reports that the country’s Home Affairs Department announced yesterday that it would consider al-Qunun’s application for asylum if she was found to be a genuine refugee. He has called on the Thai authorities and UNHCR to assess her claim as quickly as possible.

 

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