KOTA BARU: Over the years, the Narathiwat Islamic Council has been the first choice among Malaysian Muslim couples to tie the knot in southern Thailand as it is the nearest province to travel by road.
But lately, many of them prefer to go to nearby Songkhla province to get married at its central mosque.
Narathiwat Islamic Council deputy president Abdul Aziz Che Mamat said Malaysians choose to travel to Songkhla rather than Narathiwat following a new directive issued by Malaysian authorities.
"If before this, many Malaysian couples who planned to tie knot were willing to travel to Narathiwat to get married at our Narathiwat Islamic Council office. But since last year, they have changed and prefer to go to Songkhla.
"It happened after the Malaysian authorities issued a directive that every couple must obtain marriage verification letters from the Malaysian Consulate-General in Songkhla.
"This has resulted in the number of Malaysian couples getting married in Narathiwat dropping drastically.
“Previously, we recorded an everage of eight couples tying the knot in a day but to date, only two couples married at the Narathiwat Islamic Council. The council is now the second choice for Malaysian couples," he told the New Straits Times.
Despite the new regulation, Aziz, who is a Songkhla Islamic Council committee member said the Malaysian authorities have given some “flexibility” to make it easy for couples to tie knot across the border.
"Among the flexibilities which I am describing is something which is highly sought-after by a Malaysian man: he does not need to get approval from their first wife if they planned to take second one.
"They can go the Narathiwat Islamic Council directly with the new wife together with all the necessary documents and witnesses," said Aziz.
Thailand’s Islamic authority has recorded a steady increase in the number of applications from Malaysians to obtain marriage verification letters since 2011.
Consul-general Mohd Afandi Abu Bakar was reported to have said a total of 4,653 applications for marriage verification letters were received in 2018 compared to 4,375 in 2017.
He said the statistics showed a steady increase from 2,885 applications in 2011, to 3,463 (in 2012), 3,485 (in 2013), 3,831 (in 2014), 4,081 (in 2015) and 4,178 (in 2016).
Afandi said the majority of applications involved couples who had been married for two or three years and they needed the document to register their child.
He said the most of the applications involved Malaysian couples who got married at the Islamic religious offices in southern Thailand.