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Saudi asylum seeker flying from Bangkok to Canada: Thai official

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun was granted refugee status by the UN after arriving in Bangkok over the weekend
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun was granted refugee status by the UN after arriving in Bangkok over the weekend Courtesy of Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun/AFP/File
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Bangkok (AFP)

An 18-year-old Saudi woman who fled her family seeking asylum in Australia will fly to Canada late 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 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 Friday Thai authorities said she was set to board a flight to Canada instead.

"She will fly at 11:15 pm tonight (1615 GMT)," Thai immigration chief Surachate Hakparn told AFP.

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 said she was subjected to physical and psychological abuse at the hands of her family in Saudi Arabia and was once locked in her room for six months for cutting her hair.

Rights groups also say she was at risk for renouncing Islam.

Her father travelled to Thailand and denied mistreating her but she refused to see him during his trip.

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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