An 18-year-old Saudi woman who said her family wants to kill her barricaded herself inside an airport hotel in Bangkok to prevent being expelled by Thai immigration authorities who on Monday halted a plan to put her on a plane to Kuwait.
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun has been at Bangkok’s international airport since Saturday when she arrived from Kuwait. She has said she fears she will be killed if she is returned to her family, which could not be reached for comment on her accusations of abuse.
A representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) met Qunun at the airport and was to discuss the case with Thai immigration officials.
“We and UNHCR will talk to her and ask her what her wishes are, whether she wants to request asylum,” immigration chief Surachate Hakparn told a news conference.
He said Thai officials were following the law in initially refusing her entry, but added “if she is to be hurt or punished or killed, we will need to take into consideration human rights principles”.
Surachate also acknowledged for the first time Saudi embassy had alerted Thai authorities to Qunun’s arrival.
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun has now left Bangkok Airport under the care of UN officials. Thai immigratoni chief Surachate Hakparn said she will be put under the care of the UNHCR at a safe shelter in Bangkok before being process to a third country
Urban life displays poverty and inequality on all levels of society. Yet we often ignore, or conveniently forget, those who struggle against the tide of hardship. They, like many, simply want to survive.
Security footage from a Bangkok airport has caught the moment a Chinese tourist was kidnapped by four men and one woman when she stepped off a flight from Hong Kong.
After Jincai Chen, 39, landed at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok on May 6, a group of four Chinese men dressed in black and one Thai woman began following her.
CCTV footage of the incident shows Chen struggling while two members of the gang hold her by the arms and walk her through the airport towards a van waiting outside. Another member of the group can be seen walking a few steps in front, guiding the group throughout the abduction.
Some of my Thai acquaintances in Bangkok get uptight when the topic of conversation goes to the livelihood of the working class. With annoyed tones, they tell me there are many opportunities for employment, for the poor and slum inhabitants. Despite their assurances, they’re from the urban middle-class, and if you’ve lived in Bangkok for a time, you would naturally understand that their ‘wisdom’ does not accurately reflect the issues and concerns of the poor.
Work in the informal sector, are important, they say, the building blocks of the city, and the list is endless, rightfully. They believe that the poor should focus on “the abundance of jobs provided by the businesses” rather than criticise the military establishment for “this and that”. Jobs in the informal sector, such as manual labourers (especially in the construction industry), street vendors, some family workers and traditional craftspeople are available. Then there’s the higher income groups within this sector: factory workers whose wages are low but whose income is regular and secured.
I wasn’t in the mood to argue. In fact, nowadays arguments about “class” have led nowhere, especially with the belief that foreigners such as myself are not capable of understanding the sophisticated mindset of an urban, educated Thai.
But then, I understand the situation quite well. As a Malaysian, I see such class-culture, or caste in most cases, prevalent in my country. I often tell people the socio-economic situation is somewhat “same-same”, that both countries share similar problems.
Anyway, Thailand’s economy under the military has sunk deep into a deep void. The World Bank has called it the “worst performing economy in Asean.” Though it was not always like that. Ten years ago, Thailand was the best performer.
The political uncertainty that has undermined economic growth will persist for the medium term. Nomura Securities’ economists believe “political issues will likely be given priority, leaving the economic agenda (including structural reforms and large-scale infrastructure projects) on the backburner.” Thailand’s finance ministry has revised 2015’s growth figure three times down to 3%, with first quarter growth at 3% and second quarter growth at 2.8% this year.
and that’s not the end of it…
Thailand has seen a huge drop in foreign direct investment this year as other companies choose the Land of Smiles’ neighbouring countries with better business environments. According to stock exchange data, foreign investors withdrew a net $1.2bn from domestic equities in August this year, the biggest monthly outflow in two years.
Furthermore, the military regime has prevented Thailand from integrating with the world economy. Military rule led to the suspension of free trade talks with the European Union last year. With the military regime being extended for at least another two years and no sign of a return to democracy, it is unlikely we will see the EU-Thailand Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations finalised in the foreseeable future.
Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy has yet to regain traction after more than a year of military rule as exports are sluggish while high household debt has dampened consumption. Falling commodity prices have also cut farmers’ incomes.
So how will this impact the informal sector? I shared several links and economic analysis to my acquaintances; somewhat curious of their thoughts. They replied, with one obnoxiously stating that the working class must place their trust in the junta and that “if they are patriots, they’ll continue working,” in whatever work that’s available, that is.
However the rest appeared hesitant, unsure, and in truth they have lost confidence in the junta’s road-map and other so-called grand endeavours. Clarity has finally caught up with some, and I hope they start questioning their leaders about the poor state of the country, and not just kowtow to the delusions of a clueless junta.
Social welfare, or the mechanism that claims to enable basic rights to the country’s citizens, seems to be invisible and silent nowadays. Bangkok’s poverty rate, at least what’s visible on the streets, has increased with the decline in formal livelihood and made worse by the dwindling tourism.
It appears that the ruling elites in the junta are clueless on what is needed to jump-start Thailand’s economy.
A street vendor, taking a break from the slow day. It appears he’s facing challenging times, with no customers visiting his cart that serves hot, local food. He pauses, leaves the cart and with an empty plastic bottle he visits the nearby drinking fountain. A lethargic day ahead.