A Thai girl in her 11th year who was wedded to a 41-year-old Malaysian man has been placed into care.
The little girl, presently receiving mental health counseling, returned home to her native Thailand from Malaysia on Wednesday after being married to the 41 year old trader in June.
The 11-year-old, said to be the third wife of the trader, has been put under the care of the government of Thailand.
The girl was born in Thailand to parents who work in Malaysia’s vast rubber plantations and further information indicates that she doesn’t speak Thai language well.
Usually, Malaysian Muslims under the age of 16 are allowed to wed with the permission of religious courts.
News of the union between the girl and the 41-year-old trader Che Abdul Karim Che Abdul Hamid went viral and has reignited calls to end child marriage in both countries.
The girl returned to Thailand after “immense pressure from Malaysian media”, provincial governor Suraporn Prommool said.
He told reporters the marriage was not recognized under Buddhist-majority Thailand’s civil law but that it took place under an Islamic council in Narathiwat with the consent of the girl’s parents.
“We cannot do anything because they married under the religious law,” he said.
The trader, who has been fined, could face six months in jail if it is found that he did not get permission in Malaysia.
He told Malaysia’s Bernama news agency that his marriage was lawful and had been approved by the girl’s parents.
He said he would only formalize the marriage in Malaysia when the girl turned 16 and that she would stay with her parents until then.
Around 16,000 girls below the age of 15 in multiethnic and predominantly Muslim Malaysia are already married.
But Human Rights Watch senior researcher Heather Barr said that taking into account the number of children married before reaching 18, the figure could be “much much higher”.
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