Photo Gallery Thai, Saudi officials meet over case of young Saudi woman

Thai, Saudi officials meet over case of young Saudi woman

Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, foreground walks by Chief of Immigration Police Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn, right, before leaving the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok Monday, Jan. 7, 2019.
Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, second left, shakes hand with Chief of Immigration Police Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn before leaving the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok Monday, Jan. 7, 2019.
Chief of Immigration Police Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn, right, walks with Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun before leaving the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok Monday, Jan. 7, 2019.
Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun leaves the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. A Saudi woman who says she is fleeing abuse by her family and wants asylum in Australia has sent out desperate pleas for help over social media. Alqunun, 18, began posting on Twitter late Saturday after her passport was taken away when she arrived on a flight from Kuwait. She has been appealing for aid from the United Nations refugee agency and anyone else who can help, and by Monday morning had tens of thousands of followers on Twitter.
Chief of Immigration Police Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn, right talks to Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun,second left, before leaving the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok Monday, Jan. 7, 2019.
Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun views her mobile phone as she sits barricaded in a hotel room at an international airport in Bangkok, Thailand. Alqunun says she is fleeing abuse by her family and wants asylum in Australia.
A passport copy of Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun sits on the desk as Chief of Immigration Police Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn talks to media about her status during a press conference at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok Monday, Jan. 7, 2019.
UNHCR representative Giuseppe de Vincentiis, left, and Chief of Immigration Police Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn, right, arrive at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok Monday, Jan. 7, 2019.
Chief of Immigration Police Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn talks to media about the status Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun during a press conference at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. Thailand’s Immigration Police chief says Alqunun, the young Saudi woman stopped in Bangkok as she was trying to escape alleged abuse by her family by traveling to Australia for asylum, will not be sent anywhere against her wishes.

 Thailand’s immigration police chief met Tuesday with officials of the Saudi Embassy in Bangkok, and said the officials told him they are satisfied with how the case of the young Saudi woman who claims to be fleeing her abusive family has been handled.

Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn explained the Saudi reaction to reporters after a meeting with its diplomats. Saudi officials say they have had nothing to do with the case of 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun and are not demanding her return, and that the controversy is strictly a family matter.

Alqunun grabbed global attention when she sent out pleas for help via social media, saying she feared for her life if she were put on a plane back to Kuwait, where she had slipped away from her family, or her homeland.

Instead, she has been allowed to enter Thailand temporarily under the protection of the U.N. refugee agency, which was expected to take about five to seven days to study her case and her claim for asylum. She said she wants to go to Australia to seek refuge there.

Surachate said Alqunun’s father and brother were due to arrive soon in Bangkok, but that it was her decision whether to meet with them. On Twitter, she has expressed fear of such a meeting. The father had previously been expected Monday night.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has called on the Australian government to allow Alqunun’s entry into that country.

Alqunun says she had a visa to continue her journey to Australia, but media reports say the Australian government has now canceled it. Australian officials have not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Human Rights Watch’s Australian director, Elaine Pearson, said since Australia has expressed concern in the past about women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, it should “come forward and offer protection for this young woman.”