New Sunday Times reported that more than half of the Malaysians who cross the Malaysia-Thailand border to tie the knot in Narathiwat are made up of men with “Datuk” titles.
According to the Narathiwat Islamic Religious Council, these men cross the Malaysia-Thailand border as they could not get permission from their first wives back home to take on a second wife, which is a prerequisite in Malaysia, Malay Mail quoting the report from NST.
“Demand from Malaysian men to get married in Narathiwat has been on the rise, especially after the borders were reopened and Covid-19 travel restrictions lifted,” said the council’s committee member Abdul Rahman Yusof.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, around 100 Malaysian men would get hitched in southern Thailand monthly, according to the report, while after the borders were reopened, the number now stood at 40 to 70 Malaysians in the Sungai Golok sub-province alone.
He added that these men comprised ordinary folks as well as civil servants and politicians.
“They come from different backgrounds — from regular blue-collar workers to government servants and VIPs, including those with the ‘Datuk’ title.
“They choose Narathiwat or the Sungai Golok sub-province to take on second or third wives without the knowledge of their current spouse,” he said citing the case of a Malaysian politician who had tied the knot with his third wife “virtually” last year.
Abdul Rahman said some couples had eloped to southern Thailand after their parents objected to their union. He said Malaysian couples would normally enter Thailand via Rantau Panjang or Pengkalan Kubor.
“Once they have crossed over to the Sungai Golok sub-province in Thailand, they can get married only at Masjid Kedai Baru,” he said.
The imam, who is Sungai Golok-based, was later censured by the Narathiwat Islamic Council for performing the online “nikah” (marriage solemnisation) ceremony, which is not the council‘s procedure.
Abdul Rahman said while the Narathiwat Islamic Council had no problems with conducting marriages for Malaysians in the province, they had to follow the proper procedures.
“The council, however, is doing all it can to ensure that everything is done above board, including acting against imam found working with marriage syndicates,” he said.
Two imams suspended
Narathiwat Islamic Religious Council deputy president Abdul Aziz Che Mamat said it had suspended two imams, as well as a religious officer who had aided them, for their involvement with such syndicates.
“They have been suspended for six months and can no longer solemnise marriages for couples from Malaysia and other countries, including Singapore,” he added.
Must register with Malaysian religious authorities
Meanwhile, Kelantan Islamic Affairs and Religious Department (JAHEAIK) director Datuk Che Mohd Rahim Jusoh reminded couples from the state who have gotten married via this route in Thailand that it is compulsory to register their union with Malaysian religious authorities after they have returned.
“They must first confirm their marriage with the Shariah courts to ensure the marriage is legal before registering with JAHEAIK.
“If they fail to do so, they can be fined not more than RM1,000 or jailed a maximum of six months, or both,” he said.