Barricaded in a Bangkok hotel, young Saudi woman wants to go to Australia to be free

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun sends updates in real time. She fears that if she is returned to Saudi Arabia, she would be killed. Thai authorities want to send her to her relatives in Kuwait. For the Thai government she is not a refugee and has broken immigration laws. Another Saudi woman, 24-year-old Dina Ali Lasloom, experienced the same fate.

Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A desperate young Saudi woman who says she has fled her family in fear for her life has barricaded herself in her hotel room at Bangkok airport, asking to meet the UN refugee agency to claim asylum.

"My brothers and family and the Saudi embassy will be waiting for me in Kuwait," said the 18-year-old Saudi Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun. "They will kill me. My life is in danger. My family threatens to kill me for the most trivial things."

On her twitter account, used by a friend who is tweeting live about her the situation, the young woman had planned to leave Thailand for Australia on a regular flight

She is still involved in a tug-of-war with Thai and Saudi authorities because the latter want to put her on the first plane for Kuwait where family members and an uncertain future are waiting for her.

Her life is at stake. And her case echoes that of another Saudi woman who was in transit to Australia in April 2017. Dina Ali Lasloom, 24, was en route from Kuwait via the Philippines but was taken back to Saudi Arabia from Manila airport by her family. She used a Canadian tourist's phone to send a message, a video of which was posted to Twitter, saying her family would kill her. Her fate on arriving back in Saudi Arabia remains unknown.

Dina’s story confirms all the fears surrounding the fate of the 18-year-old woman locked up in a hotel room in Bangkok, in desperate search for a contact with UN officials.

According to a Thai lawyer, a Thai court turned down an urgent appeal filed this morning to block the extradition and there is nothing to stop the Thai government from returning the young woman to Saudi Arabia.

Local sources say that Thailand helped Saudi envoys who intercepted the young woman and prevented her from boarding a flight to Australia. Thai authorities dismissed the accusations, saying only that she stopped because of certain irregularities in her entry visa.

The young Saudi woman said in one of her many tweeter messages that she never wanted to stay in Thailand, and that her final destination was Australia where she wants to rebuild a life.

Thai Police Major General Surachate Hakparn said that she was escaping a marriage, and called the case a "family problem".

"I shared my story and my pictures on social media and my father is so angry because I did this... I can't study and work in my country, so I want to be free and study and work as I want," she said.

Now that she had "nothing to lose” she decided to speak out about her situation.

In Saudi Arabia women are under male tutelage. Despite recent reforms sponsored by the Kingdom’s crown prince, like letting women to drive, women activists are victims of repression.

In Rahaf’s case, it appears Thai authorities have prevented UN officials in Bangkok from meeting the young woman.

Human Rights Watch's deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said on Twitter that "time is short & she faces dire peril".