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Thailand Promises Not to Send Saudi Girl Escaping Family Back Home

Rahaf al-Qunun said her family locked her up for months after she cut her hair short.

Rabat – Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, who fled her Saudi family and was arrested on Sunday at the Bangkok airport, will not be sent back to Saudi Arabia “against her will,” the Thai immigration police chief said on Monday.

“If she does not want to leave, she will not be sent back against her will,” Surachate Hakparn told a press briefing. He added that Thailand would allow her to meet with representatives of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The Thai government had scheduled to send Rahaf back to Kuwait, from which she had fled, on Monday on a plane from Bangkok. However, the flight left without her after she barricaded herself in an airport hotel room, Phil Robertson, a Human Rights Watch Asia representative told AFP.

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Rahaf accused her family of locking her in a room for six months as punishment for cutting her hair short. She was considering seeking asylum in Australia, which she said she has a visa for.

After disembarking in Bangkok to catch her connecting flight to Australia, a Saudi diplomat met and stopped her at the gate, according to the BBC.

In April 2017, another Saudi citizen, Dina Ali Lasloum, 24, was arrested while in transit in the Philippines trying to escape a forced marriage. The Philippines sent Lasloum back to Saudi Arabia, and she has not been heard from since, the BBC reported.