Thailand says it won't deport Saudi woman who renounced Islam

  • 08/01/2019

Thailand says it won't attempt to deport a Saudi teen who says her life is in danger back home, after the case sparked international outrage.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, was transiting through Bangkok airport on her way to seek asylum in Australia when she was stopped by Thai authorities "for violating the law" in the weekend. 

Saudi officials then seized her passport and told Thai authorities she "had run away from her parents and they feared for her safety".

Thai immigration officials tried to send Ms Mohammed al-Qunun, who has renounced Islam, back to Kuwait, where her family was visiting when she ran away. But she refused to get on the flight and barricaded herself inside an airport hotel room.

"My life is in danger. My family threatens to kill me for the most trivial things," Ms Mohammed al-Qunun told Reuters.

After international pressure from rights groups, Thailand says Ms Mohammed al-Qunun is now in the care of the UN refugee agency UNHCR, which was checking her refugee status.

"Thailand is a land of smiles. We will not send anyone to die," Thailand's chief of immigration police Surachate Hakparn told media on Monday evening.

"She is now under the sovereignty of Thailand; no-one and no embassy can force her to go anywhere."

After being taken in by the UNHCR, Ms Mohammed al-Qunun tweeted that her father had arrived in Thailand, which "worried" and "scared" her.

But she said she felt safe "under UNHCR protection with the agreement of Thailand authorities" and her passport had been returned to her.

Women in Saudi Arabia have to get permission from a male guardian to do an array of things, like travelling and getting a passport. 

The country only recently allowed women to drive.