Saudi teen runaway in Bangkok is 'legitimate refugee'

How Saudi teen Rahaf al-Qunun spent months plotting her elaborate escape from her family

Visiting Thailand on Thursday, Payne praised her hosts for their handling of the case of the young Saudi woman fleeing her family to seek asylum in Australia, but said she also reminded them of continuing concern about a Bahraini soccer player granted asylum in Australia who is in Thai detention.

The ordeal of Saudi Arabian refugee Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun continues for now, with Australia's foreign minister telling reporters in Bangkok Thursday no asylum deal had been reached yet.

Thai police say Rahaf al-Qunun's father is still in Thailand and opposes her application to resettle. Thailand Immigration Police chief Lt. Gen. Surachate Hakparn said the father - whose name has not been released - denied physically abusing Alqunun or trying to force her into an arranged marriage, which were among the reasons she gave for her flight.

Meanwhile, a small group of Australian women held a 45-minute topless protest at the Saudi Arabia consulate general near Martin Place earlier on Thursday.

The teenager fears her family will kill her if she returns home after she renounced Islam and fled while on holiday in Bahrain.

Ms Alqunun had planned to enter Australia on a tourist visa and seek asylum before she was detained last weekend.

"UNHCR has been following developments closely and immediately sough access from the Thai authorities to meet with Ms. Mohammed Al-qunun, 18, to assess her need for worldwide protection", the agency said in a statement.

The department is considering the request "in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals", the spokesperson said.

Football Federation Australia have also added to the pressure and are reported to have this week finally met with AFC president (and Bahraini royal) Sheikh Salman al-Khalifa.

"If she is found to be a refugee, then we will give very, very, very serious consideration to a humanitarian visa", Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt had said before the United Nations assessment was made public.

She said she had also raised the case with him of Australian permanent resident Hakeem al-Araibi, who was arrested in Bangkok more than a month ago over an Interpol Red Notice warrant issued by Bahrain - the country he fled as a refugee.

"It would be a pretty stunning reversal if they didn't take her", he said.

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Activists have called on Thai authorities to "show humanity" to AlAraibi in the same way that they did to Qunun.

Ms Alqunun has refused to meet her father and brother who flew to Bangkok this week, and told SBS News she has no plans to do so before leaving Thailand.

'Nobody wants to see a young girl in distress and she has obviously now found a safe haven in Thailand, ' Mr Dutton said. "He said the daughter might feel neglected sometimes", Surachate said.

A UNHCR representative said "the process is still ongoing".

On Sunday Ms Qunun told AFP her family was "abusive" and once locked her in a room for six months just for cutting her hair.

That makes it "100%" certain she will be killed by her family if she is returned to Saudi, she added.

"It would have been better if they had confiscated her mobile instead of her passport".

The Saudi embassy in Bangkok said it "did not demand her deportation" and that the case is "a family affair".

The ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia has come under fire since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the country's consulate in Istanbul past year. He is obligated to do everything in his power to advocate, both privately and publicly, and to use the huge leverage that football has, with the Bahrain government, his own government, he's a Bahrainian national, and also with the Thai government to release Hakeem.

Wong said every case had to be considered on its merits.

The authorities will first have to decide whether al-Qunun's life, liberty, safety, health or other human rights are at risk in Thailand.

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