Thai court rejects bid to block deportation of Saudi woman

A Thai court has rejected an attempt to block the deportation of a Saudi woman who made a desperate plea for asylum.

Eighteen-year-old Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun said she was fleeing her “abusive” family while travelling in Kuwait, and had flown to Thailand in the hopes of reaching Australia to seek asylum.

But she was stopped on Sunday when she got off at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport by Kuwaiti and Saudi embassy officials, she said, and has since been held in an airport hotel awaiting deportation.

The young woman, understood to be the daughter of a senior Saudi government official, remains at a Bangkok airport hotel and has barricaded herself in her room.

Human rights lawyer Nadthasiri Bergman filed an injunction to block her deportation but it was rejected by Bangkok’s criminal court on Monday.

“They dismissed the request,” she told AFP.

“They said we do not have enough evidence,” she said, adding they planned to appeal.

The incident comes against the backdrop of intense scrutiny of Saudi Arabia over its investigation and handling of the shocking murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year, which has renewed criticism of the kingdom’s rights record.

Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch Asia Deputy Director, told SBS News she was in a “desperate state” and was facing a “dire situation” as she faces deportation.

“She does not have her passport in her possession, it was taken by the Saudi embassy officials,” he told SBS News.

“She is in a very frightened and desperate state. She quite clearly believes she will face serious harm if not death at the hands of her family if she is sent back to Saudi Arabia.”

Mr Robertson said she should have been allowed passage through to her final destination, Australia, without being questioned in Thailand, where she never intended to stay.

“She has the right as an 18-year-old to travel. It’s a human right, she should have not been disturbed she should have been allowed to continue on her journey to Australia,” he added.

“She is going to face a very very dire situation if she is sent back.”

Human Rights Watch provided SBS News with a document which appears to show Ms Qunun was granted a three-month visitor visa by the Australian Department of Home Affairs on 6 December 2018.

SBS News has contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for comment.

A Thai friend who is with Ms Qunun at the hotel said Thai Immigration officers came to her room late on Sunday afternoon and told her she would be sent back to Saudi Arabia on Monday.

“They said ‘you have three minutes to pack, and you will be flown back to Kuwait tomorrow at 11.15am, then returned to Saudi Arabia’,” she told AAP.

However, the teenager spoke to the officers and later returned to the hotel, human rights workers who interviewed her said.

In a Twitter post, Ms Qunun revealed her identity and passport details, saying she had “nothing to lose”.

Saudi women are subject to strict male guardianship laws and must obtain consent from a male relative for travel documents.

Ms Qunun told AFP she had been kept in her room by her family for six months because she had cut her hair.

Police Lieutenant General Surachet Hakparn said Ms Qunun was in the process of being repatriated through Kuwait Airlines, the same airline she had arrived on.

Source: National News Agency

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