Marriage syndicates preying on gullible Malaysians

Sharifah Mahsinah Abdullah, EMBUN MAJID AND ILI SHAZWANI

GETTING married in southern Thailand is a breeze, if you ask a 42-year-old taxi driver who wishes to be known only as Dan.

For a decade, the Thai national has been taking Malaysian couples across the border to be married in southern Thailand.

Dan charges them 10,000 baht (RM1,280), which he said covered the transport costs and the fee of the kadi (judge).

“I have been offering this service for 10 years. Back then, I could bring in at least one couple a day from Bukit Kayu Hitam to Hatyai to get married.

“However, the number has been dwindling with the emergence of many agents over the last few years, offering similar services,” he told the New Sunday Times.

Claiming that the package he offered was legal, Dan said it included helping the couple to apply for a marriage registration document at the Malaysian consulate office in Songkhla, a trip to Hatyai for the honeymoon and return trip to the consulate office the next day to collect the certificate.

“All I need are the couple’s MyKad and passports. If the woman is a divorcee or a widow, she needs to furnish a certificate to prove her status,” said Dan.

His package appears to be cheaper than those offered by marriage agents.

Some promote their services online and ask for RM2,000 and more. They say this covers the fees for the application and registration process with the Islamic religious office in southern Thailand.

They also state that only certified jurunikah appointed by the Thai mufti would be allowed to handle the solemnisation process.

One of the agents said Malaysian couples would still have to go through all the standard processes to register their marriage with the Malaysian authorities upon returning home.

A source in Kelantan familiar with the activities of the syndicates said at least 10 groups were active in the state. He said there were also agents in Terengganu, Pahang and other states.

“The syndicates operating along the Malaysian-Thai border hold the akad nikah (solemnisation ceremony) at mosques near the border near Pasir Mas and Rantau Panjang.

“However, the solemnisation ceremony is not carried out according to the regulations set by the Thai religious council. Therefore, the marriage is not valid,” said the source.

The source said many unsuspecting couples were willing to pay up to RM3,500 to the agents.

“They realise that they have been cheated only when they are unable to register their marriages at state religious departments in Malaysia,” he said.

The source said syndicate members moved secretly in small groups and would approach potential couples who had little knowledge about marriage laws in Thailand.

“The fee might be higher depending on the states where the akad nikah is held,” said the source, adding that the syndicates would claim to be working with imam or representatives of mosques in Thailand or the religious council, and that their services were validated by the Thai religious authorities.

The source said the Malaysian authorities had been working hard to identify the syndicates with the help of their counterparts in Thailand, but they had only been partially successful.

  “One group was busted by the authorities in Terengganu last year. However, the syndicate members are crafty and managed to escape many times.”

The source said the syndicate in Terengganu charged RM3,500 for a hassle-free polygamous mariage, complete with a fake marriage certificate.

The syndicate’s three members who were civil servants, including an official of the Terengganu Religious Affairs Department, were busted in Kuala Terengganu by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. They were detained under Section 17(a) of the Malaysian Anti- Corruption Act.

The investigating team learnt that the syndicate charged each couple RM3,500 and their marriages were registered in a neighbouring country without the consent of the first wife or a syariah court as prescribed by law.