- A Saudi diplomat joked that he wished Thai police had taken the phone of a teen who fled her family, not just her passport.
- He made the joke in Arabic during a meeting on Tuesday with Thai immigration police, a video shows.
- Rahaf al-Qunun launched a viral Twitter campaign asking for help, which resulted in the UN granting her refugee status.
- The publicity from her message, where she said she fears being killed for renouncing Islam, changed Thai officials’ minds about deporting her.
- The Australian government says it is considering granting al-Qunun asylum.
A Saudi Arabian official joked that Thailand should have confiscated the phone of a teen asylum seeker, who avoided deportation and was placed under UN protection after her posts went viral.
A video posted online shows a man – identified in local media as Saudi charge d’affaires Abdullah al-Shuaibi – noting the large audience Rahaf al-Qunun managed to find on social media.
He then jokes that Thailand’s immigration police ought to have taken her phone instead of taking her passport.
Without her ability to tweet, al-Qunun’s case would not have become a global news story. Thai officials only abandoned a plan to send her back to her family in Kuwait after her story started to spread, Reuters reported.
Here is the video:
"I wish they would've taken her phone instead of her passport" – Saudi Arabia's Charge d'affairs, Bangkok Mr. al-Shuaibi
— Ex-Muslims of North America (@ExmuslimsOrg) January 8, 2019
INSIDER has verified the translation. Al-Shuaibi says: “So as soon as she arrived, she opened an account, and got about 45,000 followers in a single day.”
He added: “I wish they would have confiscated her phone instead of her passport.”
According to Reuters, the video was first published by Thai immigration police. INSIDER was unable to locate the original, but al-Qunun and other activists have published it since.
Al-Qunun gathered 114,000 Twitter followers, and sparked the #SaveRahaf hashtag, with a series of tweets and videos in which she said she was fleeing her family.
She said they “consider me as property” and want to kill her for renouncing Islam. The UN this week granted her refugee status, which means they judged her fears to be legitimate.
The Thai immigration police responded to the video this week.
In comments reported by the Thailand’s English-language news site Khaosod, the agency’s chief said: “I’d like to emphasise that police didn’t have the authority to confiscate her phone.”
“She didn’t commit a crime, and it was within her rights [to tweet]”.
The Australian government said on Wednesday that it is deciding whether to approve al-Qunun’s asylum claim.
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