Efforts to prevent woman's return to Saudi Arabia

A Saudi woman held at Suvarnabhumi airport in Thailand said she would be killed if she was repatriated by Thai immigration officials. — Reuters pic

An 18-year-old woman from Saudi Arabia was taken into custody Saturday by Thai officials in Bangkok, and feared for her life if she was sent back to her conservative, abusive family.

A Twitter statement from the Saudi embassy in Bangkok said Qunun was stopped by Thai authorities for "violating the (Thai) law".

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun travelled with her family from Saudi Arabia into neighboring Kuwait.

The United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR, has brought a Saudi girl who has fled purported domestic abuse to Thailand under its protection for the assessment of her asylum case, following an outcry against her potential forced handover to her family.

Alqunun's planned forced departure this morning was averted as she stayed in her hotel room, with furniture piled up against the door, photos she posted online showed.

Fearful: Rohaf Mohammed Alqunun was expected to meet her father in Thailand after she fled her family, saying she would be killed for renouncing Islam.

"My family is strict and locked me in a room for six months just for cutting my hair". Saudi officials say they have had nothing to do with Alqunun's case and are not demanding her return, and that the controversy is strictly a family matter.

Under the hashtag #SaveRahaf, the young woman's desperate pleas became a social media sensation, and she was able to post live updates and videos from the Bangkok airport in both Arabic and English, racking up more than 80,000 followers.

"When I landed at the airport, someone came and said he would process the [Thai] visa but he took my passport". Rahaf claimed to have a visa for Australia and planned to apply for asylum, according to the Associated Press.

Surachate also acknowledged for the first time Saudi embassy had alerted Thai authorities to Qunun's arrival.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young was the first Australian MP to call on the government to provide the Saudi woman with a haven.

Qunun told the world of her dramatic plight on social media, drawing widespread support and concern, which convinced Thai authorities to back down from deporting her back to Saudi Arabia. "She could still be sent back on one of several flights leaving later in the day".

"She was over-exaggerating. She fled her family from Saudi Arabia and arrived in Thailand but she didn't have necessary documents to enter".

Thai immigration chief Surachate Hakparn had said on Sunday that Qunun was denied entry because of her lack of documents.

But he denied that her passport had been seized and that embassy officials were present inside the airport.

"Saudi news said I was living in Kuwait, but that's wrong I live in Saudi Arabia and this is the proof", she tweeted.

Thai Immigration chief Surachate Hakparn said on Monday that the embassy had alerted Thai authorities to the case, and said that the woman had run away from her parents and they feared for her safety.

She said she believed she was stopped after her family appealed to Kuwait Airways. They threaten to kill me and prevent me from continuing my education.

She tweeted that she learned that her father had arrived in Thailand to see her, which made her "worried and scared".

An airline security official reported seeing her dragged out of the airport with her mouth, hands, and feet bound with duct tape.

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