Father of Saudi woman seeking asylum arrives in Thailand, wants meeting

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Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, arrived in Bangkok from Kuwait late Saturday after slipping away from the family she has accused of abusing her. Qunun said it was her intention from there to seek asylum in Australia, but she was stopped by officials in Thailand, who confiscated her passport.

Rahaf al-Qunun has said she fears her family will kill her if she was forced to return home.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told reporters on Wednesday - before the referral was confirmed - that Australia would consider any referrals from the United Nations but Ms al-Qunun would not receive any "special treatment". Both countries have said she was stopped because she didn't have a return ticket, hotel reservation or itinerary with her upon arrival.

"We are in close contact with partners about her situation". Gen. Surachate Hakparn, the young woman's father and brother were due to arrive soon in Bangkok, but it would be Alqunun's decision whether to meet with them.

Her case will now be referred to Australia for consideration.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Australian government has been urging the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to process her case quickly.

She was finally allowed to enter Thailand late on Monday after spending 48 hours at Bangkok airport, some of it barricaded in a transit lounge hotel room.

"Due to privacy concerns, we can not comment on a specific case without signed consent", said Nancy Caron, a spokeswoman for Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

The 18-year-old Saudi Arabian woman is hoping to seek asylum overseas and barricaded herself inside a hotel in Bangkok to prevent being expelled by Thai authorities.

"The father and brother want to go and talk to Rahaf but the United Nations will need to approve such talk", General Surachate told reporters.

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Who is Rahaf al-Qunun?

"She fled hardship. Thailand is a land of smiles".

A Change.org petition to grant Qunun asylum in Britain has so far garnered more than 80,000 signatures.

The case has drawn new global attention to Saudi Arabia's strict social rules, including a requirement that women have the permission of a male "guardian" to travel, which rights groups say can trap women and girls as prisoners of abusive families.

She made her escape during a family trip to Kuwait, where she purchased flights to Thailand and Australia.

"I am giving my family 48 hours (to) either stop or I will publish everything that will incriminate them", she threatened on Twitter.

The plan was originally to put the 18-year-old on a plane back to Kuwait on Monday, January 7.

"We are very grateful that the Thai authorities did not send back Ms. Al-qunun against her will and are extending protection for her", UNHCR Thailand country representative Giuseppe de Vicentiis was quoted as saying in a statement released on Tuesday morning.

We now know she is safe, in the care of the UN Human Rights Council in Bangkok awaiting a decision on her request for asylum in Australia or Canada.

He said the Thai government "needs to explain why diplomats from Saudi Arabia are allowed to walk in closed areas of the Bangkok airport, seizing one of their citizen's passports".

The latest incident comes against the backdrop of intense scrutiny on Saudi Arabia over the shocking murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi past year, which has renewed criticism of the kingdom's rights record.

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