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Runaway Saudi woman leaves for Canada

BANGKOK: An 18-year-old Saudi woman who fled her family seeking asylum in Australia left for South Korea on her way to Canada late on Friday, the head of Thai immigration police said, in a surprise twist to a saga partly played out over Twitter.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun was granted refugee status by the UN two days ago after arriving in Bangkok over the weekend and amassing a large Twitter following as she made desperate pleas for help from the airport.

Australia was assessing a request to resettle her, but hours after the young woman tweeted that she had “some good news and some bad news”.

Earlier, on Friday Thai authorities said she was set to board a flight to Canada instead. “She will fly at 11:15pm tonight (1615 GMT),” said Thai immigration chief Surachate Hakparn.

The woman’s social media-driven fight for freedom was watched closely around the world after she arrived in Bangkok via Kuwait and barricaded herself in a hotel room posting live updates about her status. She quickly amassed tens of thousands of followers with a #SaveRahaf hashtag that went viral and saw her delivered into the hands of the UN refugee agency in lightning speed compared to other asylum cases.

Rahaf’s quest also prompted online vitriol and death threats that made her deactivate her Twitter account after posting her last update.

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