NARNTHIWAT – An 11-year-old Thai girl who was married to a 41-year-old Malaysian man has been sent back to Thailand from Malaysia, an official at the Social Development and Human Security Ministry said on Friday.
The girl, whose situation was revealed in June, has been put under the care of the ministry, said Witat Techaboon. He said he could not provide any other details because the topic is sensitive.
Rubber scrap dealer Che Abdul Karim Che Abdul Hamid is believed to have secretly married the girl — a Thai citizen who lives with her parents in Malaysia — as his third wife in Thailand. Holding a Muslim wedding ceremony in Thailand skirted both Thai and Malaysian marriage laws.
Muslim girls under the minimum legal marriage age of 16 can wed with the consent of a shariah court and their parents. Muslim men in Malaysia can marry four wives.
Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said earlier that the marriage was illegal as it had not been approved by a shariah court.
Photos on social media showed the groom holding the girl’s hand after the marriage ceremony. Local media said Che Abdul Karim, who is also an imam in a rural village in northeast Kelantan state, already has two wives and six children aged between 5 and 18.
He told Bernama news agency that his marriage was lawful and approved by the girl’s parents, who are poor rubber tappers in Malaysia. He said he did not plan to formalize the marriage in Malaysia until the girl turned 16 and that she would stay with her parents until then.