KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 22 — A 41-year-old from Kelantan who sparked a media frenzy after marrying an 11-year-old girl from Thailand has expressed guilt that his matrimony with the minor has resulted in the federal government’s move to ban child marriages.
“In this issue, I feel guilty because my marriage has affected everyone who then urged the government to raise the legal marrying age to 18 in this country,” the rubber trader told Berita Harian.
He also told the Malay daily that he is still in regular contact with his child bride who has been moved back to her hometown of Narathiwat in Thailand with her parents, though she is under the watch of the Thai Social Ministry.
“It has been almost two weeks since I saw her face, and only our wedding photo can remedy how much I miss my third wife.
“Even though I managed speak to her over phone last week, yet I still miss her very much and am only able to stare at the wedding photos I have,” he was quoted saying in the daily.
The girl, known only as Ayu, is the newest and youngest of the man’s three wives. She had been reported to be the best friend of the man’s daughter with the second wife.
The man said they last saw each other two weeks ago.
The controversial marriage between the 41-year-old man and his pre-teen bride at a mosque in the Thai border town of Kampung Padang Nyor, Munduk near Sungai Golok, Kelantan was first reported last month.
The incident resurrected debate over the practice of child marriages even as children’s rights advocates and some lawmakers pressured the government to standardise the legal minimum age for marriage at 18 years old, across the board.
In Malaysia, marriages involving children of both genders below 18 still take place.
Civil laws permit non-Muslim girls aged 16 to wed, but with prior approval from the state chief minister or mentri besar. There is no minimum age of marriage for Muslims under Malaysian Shariah law.