Saudi Arabia denies requesting extradition of woman in Thailand: embassy

Saudi teen Rahaf Mohammed al Qunun with Thai immigration authorities at a hotel inside Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok

Saudi teen Rahaf Mohammed al Qunun with Thai immigration authorities at a hotel inside Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok

The story of the 18-year-old Saudi women who fled her family seeking asylum to reclaim her rights has been the talk of the town for the past few days with the trending hashtag 'Save Rahaf' on Twitter.

"Yesterday, they [social media supporters] made the difference in Rahaf's life", she said.

In November, Bahraini footballer Hakeem Alaraibi, who played for his national side before fleeing the Gulf State during the Arab Spring crackdown, was refused entry to Thailand where he was due to take a holiday with his wife.

Within hours, a campaign sprung up on Twitter dubbed #SaveRahaf.

Her family has so far not commented on her accusations. But as her desperate calls for help quickly attracted human rights campaigners and United Nations refugee staffers intervened, they promised not to deport her.

"Everybody was watching. When social media works, this is what happens", said Mr Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, of the worldwide outcry.

A British woman launched an online petition calling on Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to grant al-Qunun asylum and issue her an emergency travel document.

Qunun barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room, refusing to leave and posting determined calls for asylum on social media to draw attention to her plight.

She has also said she had a valid visa to enter Australia - where there is mounting pressure on the government to grant her asylum.

"You are the real power help me to send my message, I need PROTECTION", she tweeted Tuesday afternoon, adding the hashtag #savemylife.

Alqunun said she planned to seek asylum in Australia, fearing she would be killed if repatriated by Thai immigration officials who stopped her at the airport. "If I go back to Saudi Arabia, I will be dead".

At around the same time, journalist McNeill chose to fly to Thailand and try to meet Ms Qunun.

Robertson told CBC's As it Happens that the 18-year old was confined to her room for nearly six months.

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Alqunun arrived at the Thai capital's main airport on a flight from Kuwait over the weekend, after running away from her family, whom she says subjected her to physical and psychological abuse. She continued tweeting and also corresponding with Mr Robertson of Human Rights Watch.

Qunun first gained global attention when she barricaded herself in a hotel at Suvarnabhumi airport after reportedly arriving in Thailand enroute to seek asylum in Australia.

The Saudi Arabian embassy in Bangkok has denied it impounded her passport or has the authority to detain her in Thailand, but claimed she was legally required to be deported. And if all else failed and she was forced on the Kuwait Airways jet, an activist in India was ready with a "bomb scare" tweet to stop the flight from leaving.

"We were inside the room and there were numerous people coming to the door".

"We have no idea what he is going to do. whether he will try to find out where she is and go harass her".

The flight to Kuwait City left without Ms Qunun.

Thai Immigration Police chief Maj.

"We are very grateful that the Thai authorities did not send back (al-Qunun) against her will and are extending protection to her", he said.

"The Australian Embassy in Thailand has made representations to both the Thai Government and the Bangkok office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to seek assurances that Ms Al-Qunun can access the UNHCR's refugee status determination process in Thailand", said a statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

By about 7.30pm on Monday, Mr Surachate told reporters Ms Qunun would be allowed to enter Thailand and apply for asylum in a third country.

Alqunun is reportedly the daughter of a high-ranking Saudi official.

"When she first arrived in Thailand, she opened a new site (account) and the followers reached about 45,000 within one day", a Saudi official speaking in Arabic through a translator told Thai officials in the video, referring to the Twitter account.

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