UN refugee agency takes over case of Saudi woman

11:29 pm on 8 January 2019

The United Nations refugee agency says it could take several days to process the case of a young Saudi woman who barricaded herself in a hotel room to avoid deportation from Thailand.

This handout picture January 7, 2019 shows 18-year-old Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed al-Qanun (2nd L) being escorted by a Thai immigration officer (R) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) officials at Suvarnabhumi international airport in Bangkok.

Rahaf al-Qunun leaves Bangkok airport with an official from the UN High Commission for Refugees. Photo: AFP

Rahaf al-Qunun fled from her family on a flight from Kuwait, but was stopped at Bangkok airport while trying to get on a connecting flight to Australia, where she planned to apply for asylum.

She says her family will kill her if she is returned home because she has cut her hair and renounced Islam.

Ms al-Qunun left the airport this morning under the care of the refugee agency.

On Monday evening local time, Thailand's chief of immigration police Surachate Hakparn confirmed that Ms Mohammed al-Qunun was "allowed to stay", and that she "left the airport with the UNHCR".

He earlier said the country would "take care of her as best we can", adding: "She is now under the sovereignty of Thailand; no-one and no embassy can force her to go anywhere.

"Thailand is a land of smiles. We will not send anyone to die."

Mr Surachate said he would meet Saudi diplomats on Tuesday to clarify Thailand's decision.

The Australian government said it would closely monitor the case, calling Ms Mohammed al-Qunun's allegations "deeply concerning".

The Saudi embassy in Bangkok is denying reports that Riyadh has requested her extradition.