Thai-Muslim widows, spurned lovers flee to Malaysia

KOTA BARU - Thousands of Thai-Muslim widows and spurned lovers of Thai soldiers have left for Malaysia as they were rejected by their families, said a Thai lawmaker yesterday.

Sungai Golok assemblyman Che Arong Che Aly said an estimated 5,000 Thai-Muslim widows and former girlfriends of Thai troops had fled from their villages in Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani, all Muslim-majority provinces in southern Thailand.

He said most families refused to accept their daughters back as it was taboo for Muslims to marry Thai soldiers who were Buddhists.

"The women, aged mostly about 20 or younger, are now working in several states in Malaysia like Kelantan, Terengganu and Kuala Lumpur," he said.

It was recently reported in the online version of Thai newspaper The Nation that more than 1,000 Muslim women in the southern provinces had been abandoned following affairs or marriages with Buddhist troops deployed in the region.

Chaiyong Maneerungsakul, chairman of the committee on justice and human rights related to southern border problems, said the southern violence also caused social problems for its Muslim women. Che Arong said it was normal for Thai-Muslim women, especially youth to be attracted to to uniformed forces, such as soldiers or policemen sent for peacekeeping duties in the deep south.

"Our local Muslim women are really besotted with the troops. Their masculine appearance in smart uniforms has caused the women to do whatever their partners asked.

"Some choose to marry army personnel while others start an affair."

Che Arong said when the women were divorced or abandoned by their partners, they could not return home as most families had disowned such daughters.

"Feeling frustrated and disappointed, the girls cross over to Malaysia and find work in factories or restaurants."

He said their liaisons usually began at military roadblocks set up to check for subversive and criminal elements.

"The women, who are asked to stop at checkpoints as they pass on motorcycles, will exchange mobile phone numbers with soldiers and their love affairs soon begin. If you realise, there are more than 20 roadblocks in Narathiwat alone. It is here that the troops get to know the women."

Che Arong claimed that the phenomenon started several years ago and continued until now.

"Thai-Muslim women seem unrepentant even though they know that their friends have ended up as victims after a failed relationship."

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