BANGKOK – Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne met her Thai counterpart, Don Pramudwinai, on Thursday during an official visit and discussed a number of bilateral issues, including the case of a detained Saudi teen and a Bahraini footballer.
After her meeting with Pramudwinai, Payne confirmed that Australia was evaluating an asylum request by a young Saudi woman whose detention in Thailand, while she was fleeing to Australia to escape alleged abuses by her family, caused a global outcry and invited an intervention by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Payne said Australia was evaluating the asylum request submitted on behalf of 18-year-old Saudi national Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun by the UNHCR.
Payne also said her country was very concerned about the situation of Hakeem Al-Araibi, a Bahraini soccer player, who had been living in Australia since 2014 as a refugee.
Al-Araibi was arrested in Bangkok in November over an Interpol notice – which was subsequently withdrawn – and is currently facing extradition to Bahrain, which accuses him of causing damage to a police station, charges the player denies.
Payne urged Thailand not to extradite a Bahraini refugee and return him to Australia.
The case of al-Qunun had garnered international attention after her posts and videos on Twitter went viral.
The teen had avoided deportation to Kuwait on Monday after barricading herself in her hotel in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, and alleged that she had fled her family as she feared they would kill her after she renounced her Islamic faith.
She had arrived in Bangkok on Saturday from Kuwait, on her way to Australia, when the authorities had detained her.
Al-Qunun was granted protection by the UNHCR on Wednesday and had refused to meet her father, identified as a governor in Saudi Arabia, who had arrived in Bangkok a day earlier.
Thailand is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention of 1951, and has been criticized for sending refugees and asylum-seekers back to countries where they face severe persecution.