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Saudi woman ‘trapped at Bangkok airport trying to flee family’

BANGKOK (BBC): A young Saudi woman says she is stranded at Bangkok’s main airport after fleeing her family and having her passport seized by a Saudi official.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, says she was on a trip to Kuwait with her family when she fled on a flight two days ago.

She was trying to head to Australia via a connecting flight in Bangkok.

She told the BBC that she had renounced Islam, and feared she would be forcibly returned to Saudi Arabia and killed by her family.

The BBC’s Jonathan Head in Bangkok says Ms Mohammed al-Qunun is frightened and confused. She says she has an Australian visa but her passport was seized by a Saudi diplomat when he met her coming off the flight at Suvarnabhumi airport.

Ms Mohammed al-Qunun told BBC Newshour she was now in a hotel in the transit area.

She said: “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.”

Thai police Maj Gen Surachate Hakparn told the BBC that Ms Mohammed al-Qunun was escaping a marriage. Because she did not have a visa to enter Thailand, he said police had denied her entry and were in the process of repatriating her through the same airline she had taken, Kuwait Airlines. Gen Surachate said he was unaware of any passport seizure.

It is unclear why Ms Mohammed al-Qunun would need a Thai visa if she was in transit to Australia and had an Australian visa.

Saudi citizens visiting Thailand are also eligible to apply for a visa on arrival when entering the country.