Saudi asylum seeker deletes Twitter account after death threats, friend says
By Patpicha Tanakasempipat
Saudi teen Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun is greeted by Thai immigration authorities at a hotel inside Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand January 7, 2019. Thailand Immigration Police via REUTERS/Files
BANGKOK (Reuters) - A Saudi teenager who fled to Thailand saying she feared her family would kill her deleted her Twitter account on Friday after getting death threats, a friend said, while she awaits a decision on where she might be granted asylum.
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, arrived in Thailand on Saturday and was initially denied entry.
She soon started posting messages on Twitter from the transit area of Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport saying she had "escaped Kuwait" and her life would be in danger if forced to return to Saudi Arabia.
Within hours, a campaign sprang up dubbed #SaveRahaf, spread on Twitter by a loose network of activists.
Thai authorities allowed her to enter the country on Monday and the U.N. refugee agency later referred her case to Australia for consideration for refugee resettlement.
Around mid-day on Friday, her Twitter account, @rahaf84427714, went offline after she posted that she had "bad and good news!"
The account reappeared briefly about an hour later but went offline again within minutes.
A Twitter user known as Nourah, whom Qunun has referred to as a friend, tweeted that Qunun "received death threats and for this reason she closed her Twitter account".
Qunun, who is staying in Bangkok at an undisclosed location and was not available for comment, had earlier said on Twitter she had been receiving death threats from a relative on the social media platform.
Sophie McNeill, an Australia Broadcast Corp. journalist who has had direct contact with Qunun, said the teenager was "safe and fine" but was taking a short break from Twitter.
"She's just been receiving a lot of death threats," McNeill said on Twitter.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Thursday Australia was assessing whether to grant Qunun asylum.
While Payne said there was "no timeframe" for a decision, Thailand's immigration department chief, Surachate Hakparn, said it should become clear by Friday evening where Qunun would be granted asylum.
"Her physical and mental heath is good," Surachate told reporters.
"We should know by this evening which country she'll be going to."
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