Published: Fri, January 11, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Saudi woman to leave Thailand for Canada, immigration chief says

Saudi woman to leave Thailand for Canada, immigration chief says

Under the kingdom's strict guardianship laws, adult women must obtain permission from a male guardian to travel overseas, marry or be released from prison.

A USA news report says the young Saudi woman, who fled from her family during a holiday last weekend, has been granted asylum in Australia.

Rahaf Mohammed Al-qunun at the United Nations building in Bangkok, before departing to the airport.

In a statement to 10 daily, a spokesperson for the department said it would consider her referral for resettlement in Australia.

But al-Qunun's savvy use of Twitter throughout her ordeal at Bangkok airport, including tweeting videos of her barricading herself in a hotel room, galvanised a global campaign and calls for her to be granted asylum.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed his country would be taking in Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun.

She quashed speculation that Alqunun might accompany her back to Australia, "because there are steps which are required in the process which Australia, and any other country considering such a matter, would have to go through".

First, Canada's ambassador to Saudi Arabia was sent home and Saudi Arabia recalled its diplomatic officials after Canada tweeted concerns about the arrest of human rights activists in Saudi Arabia.

Australia's foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, is in Thailand on Thursday for an official visit.

The woman, who said her passport was seized after being stopped at an airport in Bangkok on Saturday, had barricaded herself in an airport hotel room and launched a social media campaign, drawing attention from around the world.

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The UNHCR eventually granted her refugee status on Wednesday and several countries, including Canada and Australia, had been in talks with the United Nations refugee agency to accept her. "It is not going to help the Canada-Saudi relationship but it is absolutely the right thing to do".

Alqunun, from Hail in northwestern Saudi Arabia, said she feared she may have been killed if she was forced to return to her family.

Her father and brother arrived in Bangkok on Tuesday, but Ms Qunun "refused to see" them, according to Thai Immigration Chief Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn, who has been caught up in the worldwide firestorm since Ms Qunun's arrival.

Despite reports the 18-year-old was heading to Australia, it appears she may be headed to Canada after the UNHCR withdrew its referral, The Australian reported.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, will be boarding a Korean Air flight from Bangkok to Seoul on Friday night, before boarding a connecting flight to Canada, immigration chief Surachate Hakparn said.

Hakeem's case is being considered by Thailand's justice system, she said. Al-Araibi, however, faces a court trial in Thailand for extradition as requested by Bahrain for his role in anti-government protests.

'Rahaf received death threats and for this reason she closed her Twitter account, please save Rahaf life, ' @nourahfa313 wrote.

On Monday evening, Thai authorities allowed her to enter the country.

In a now-deleted Tweet, BBC Asian network asked viewers if they "respected the decision" of a teenager who fled Saudi Arabia saying she would be killed for renouncing Islam.

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