An 11-year-old Thai girl who married and became the third wife of a 41-year-old Malaysian man has returned to Thailand after the Malaysian community mocked and openly criticised her about the marriage.
A security source said that the girl, known only as Ayu, and her mother have sought help from the Royal Thai Consulate General in Malaysia’s Kelantan state where they lived.
The same source said the mother and daughter could no longer tolerate the pressure from the Malaysian public that opposed the marriage between Ayu and the man.
“People teased, pressured and openly condemned the girl and the mother in public,” said the source. “The husband, however did not want to send them back, as he viewed that the marriage was done correctly, but could not resist them.”
The Consular office then contacted Thai authorities about their wish to return to the kingdom. Social Development and Human Security officials took in the mother and girl, who are now residing in Narathiwat province.
The Star online reported that the Kelantan state government had sent the girl back on Wednesday.
“The ministry is supposed to protect the girl and rehabilitate her,” said another source. “It’s right for the Thai government to take the girl back, but they have to have a long-term plan. The girl’s family is poor and no one would care for them.”
While the ministry would shelter her, he said that there was a concern that religious bodies might threaten the ministry to allow her to remain with the man.
“Religious bodies in Thailand are influential and support child marriage,” he said.
The issue surfaced when a report went viral on social media in June in which a man was said to have married a young Thai girl in Gua Musang, Kelantan. Many netizens expressed anger over a child marriage being allowed.
An initial investigation by the Kelantan Welfare Department found that the marriage had actually taken place in Golok, Thailand rather than Malaysia where child marriage is largely forbidden. The girl’s parents are said to be poor Thai nationals.
The man was fined 1,800 ringgit (Bt14,700) by the Gua Musang Syariah Court – a sum criticised as too little by some.
The man is a father of six and had two wives prior to the child marriage. One of his daughters was a friend of Ayu. The marriage came to light when his second wife posted the photos of the girl’s marriage to her husband on a social media platform.
She claimed that her husband failed to inform her about the third wife as required by their religion.