11 years old & # 039; girlfriend & # 039; returns to Thailand after the international protest

The Malaysian national, 41, poses with his latest wife an 11-year-old girl.

An 11-year-old girl returned to Thailand this week after the widespread protest over her marriage to a Malaysian man 30 years older than her, an official told AFP on Saturday.

Malaysian Muslims under the age of 16 can marry with the permission of the religious courts, but the news of the union between the girl and the 41-year-old merchant turned viral on social networks, which rekindled the calls to end the marriage childish.

The ceremony took place in June on the border in the southern Muslim majority of Thailand in Narathiwat province, where the girl returned to Wednesday in the wake of "immense pressure from the Malaysian media," said the provincial governor. Suraporn Prommool.

The 11-year-old girl, who is believed to be the merchant's third wife, is receiving mental health counseling because of the intense level of care, Suraporn said.

He added that the marriage was not recognized under the civil law of the Buddhist majority in Thailand, but that it was carried out under the auspices of an Islamic council in Narathiwat with the consent of the girl's parents.

"We can not do anything (annul the marriage) because they got married under religious law," he said.

The merchant, however, could face six months in prison if it is discovered that he did not obtain permission in Malaysia.

The girl was born in Thailand to parents who work in the vast rubber plantations of Malaysia and Suraporn said she does not speak Thai well.

According to the most recent statistics, around 16,000 girls under the age of 15 in multi-ethnic and predominantly Muslim Malaysia are already married.

But Human Rights Watch's lead researcher, Heather Barr, said that taking into account the number of children married before the age of 18, the figure could be "much higher."

The protests in Malaysia led the head of the Ministry of Women and Family Development to comment on Facebook last month saying the country is "unequivocally" opposed to child marriage and is taking steps to raise the minimum age to 18 years.

Rights groups are hopeful that the case may highlight the problem, but some remain skeptical given the parallel legal religious and civil systems in Malaysia.

"This has been an ongoing debate in Malaysia and there is no concrete solution for this," said children's advocate James Nayagam, adding that protests over the marriage of 11-year-olds would be counteracted by community support. conservative

"We can reduce incidents, but I do not think we can eliminate it," he said.