A Saudi teenager who ran from her family, claiming she had been abused, will be allowed to stay in Thailand while her case is investigated by the United Nations' refugee agency (UNHCR), immigration officials announced Monday.
Ms Rahaf Mohammed Al Qunun had been at Bangkok airport since Saturday when she was denied entry by Thai immigration officials, who reject her accusations that she was detained at the request of Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi woman told human rights groups and the media that she was stopped at Bangkok airport in transit from Kuwait and had her passport taken from her.
The Australian government said it was "pleased" Alqunun's claim would be processed by the UNHCR amid a report that Australia was preparing to offer her a humanitarian visa once her application was processed.
Thai immigration officials had initially said she should return to Kuwait. A mysterious person, however, told her he would help her get a visa and then took her passport.
Al-Qunun tweeted a photo of United Nations staff with Thai security after she left her room as well as a copy of her passport that she had regained after being held.
It's still possible the Thai government will deport her.
"She's desperately fearful of her family, including her father who is a senior government official, and given Saudi Arabia's long track record of looking the other way in so-called honor violence incidents, her worry that she could be killed if returned cannot be discounted".
At her request, the Thai side made a decision to hand her over on Monday night to the care of the UNHCR. She claims she was kept her in her room for six months for cutting her hair. She said she had planned to spend a few days in Thailand so she would not spark suspicion when she left Kuwait.
After fleeing her family and renouncing her Islamic faith, Rahaf Mohammed Mutlaq Alqunun fears for her life as she attempts to travel to Australia seeking refuge.
"She is under the care of the UNHCR now but we also sent Thai security to help take care (of her)", Surachate told reporters at Suvarnabhumi airport.
"Foreign governments, including Australia, that are concerned about human rights should be doubling down and offering support", she said, adding that the response for the federal government and opposition had been disappointing so far.
He said that the Thai authorities were the ones who confiscated her passport for violating the entry regulations and they are taking the appropriate action accordingly.
It's believed that the teen is trying to escape her father and begin a new life in Australia, after fleeing from her family following a holiday in Kuwait. She would sound upbeat and tell me about her plans to escape "once her brother travelled abroad", or when the family visited France on holiday. Both countries have said she was stopped because she didn't have a return ticket, hotel reservation or itinerary with her upon arrival. A family trip to Kuwait apparently allowed her to evade Saudi Arabia's restrictions on travel. "My family threatens to kill me for the most trivial things".
Rafah had expressed how Saudi embassy officials in Thailand threatened her against trying to flee.
Renunciation, known as apostasy, is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.
In conservative Saudi families, men often see themselves as the guardians of their family and meet out punishments on wayward family members, particularly girls and women, according to The New York Times.