Report: Thai Islamic authorities tighten cross border polygamy laws

Emmanuel Santa Maria Chin
The Narathiwat Islamic Religious Council issued a directive for stricter checks on marriages involving Malaysian Muslims at the Malaysia-Thailand border. ― Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 22 — Malaysian Muslims slipping into southern Thailand to marry are now subject to closer scrutiny following the controversial marriage of a 41-year-old Kelantanese man to an 11-year-old girl from Narathiwat.

The Narathiwat Islamic Religious Council issued a directive for stricter checks during a meeting between the council and practising religious bodies and judges last month, Berita Harian reported on its website today.

“After this, any couple from Malaysia that seeks the services of the religious judges for marriages need to hand over all relevant documents, including a polygamy approval letter from their respective local religious authorities before the marriage can be done.

“This is to make sure no more issues will arise after this,” an unnamed source with the Thai Islamic authority told the Malay daily.

The controversial marriage between the 41-year-old Malaysian man and his pre-teen Thai 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.

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