Saudi teen Alqunun leaves Thailand for Canada to seek asylum

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Thai immigration official says 18-year-old has left Bangkok airport after her ordeal went viral on social media.


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Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, who barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room earlier this week in a bid to stave off deportation to the kingdom, has left the country to seek asylum in Canada, according to Thailand’s immigration chief.

The 18-year-old, who claimed to be fleeing abuse from her family, boarded a Korean Air flight from Bangkok to Seoul before taking a connecting flight to Canada.

“Canada has granted her asylum,” immigration chief Surachate Hakpark told Reuters news agency. “She’ll leave tonight at 11.15pm (16:15 GMT).”

However, Canadian authorities said they could not confirm that Qunun had been granted asylum in Canada.

WATCH: Saudi teen detained in Thailand fears deportation (1:31)

“We have nothing new to add on this right now,” a spokesman for Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said.

Alqunun arrived in Bangkok on a flight from Kuwait over the weekend, saying her family subjected her to physical and psychological abuse.

Her father travelled to Thailand and denied mistreating her but she refused to see him during his trip.

The teenager said she planned to seek asylum in Australia, fearing she would be killed if repatriated by Thai immigration officials who stopped her at the airport.

Alqunun live-tweeted every stay at the airport, posting videos and constantly updating her followers.

Her Twitter account gained more than 100,000 followers over six days but the teenager reportedly suspended her profile on Friday after receiving “some very nasty, very real death threats”.

Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter: “Rahaf temporarily suspended her #Twitter account because she has been receiving some very nasty, very real death threats. Not sure when she will resume, & think it depends on what @Twitter @Jack does about tracking & shutting down those accounts making these threats! #SaveRahaf”

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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