IIAS Lunch Lecture

24 Hours in Thailand: Express Marriages at the Malaysian-Thai Border

Lunch Lecture by Nurul Huda Mohd Razif, IIAS affiliated fellow from the University of Cambridge, UK

Lunch is provided, registration is required. 

Malaysia and Thailand’s amicable neighborly relations have become all the more intimate in recent years with the increasing number of Malaysian couples contracting “express marriages” (nikah ekspres) in the predominantly-Muslim region of Southern Thailand.

Thailand enables Malaysian Muslim couples to fulfill various personal and conjugal aspirations by offering quick, affordable, and discreet nikah (marriage) procedures that are Shariah-compliant and endorsed by the Malaysian state itself. It is against Malaysian Shariah Law to marry in Thailand, but these cross-border marriages can be granted legal legitimacy by the Malaysian state if judged as having fulfilled all the requirements of an Islamic marriage.

In this presentation, I attempt to account for the gradual rise in Malay-Muslim cross-border marriages taking place in Southern Thailand. I suggest that the upsurge in this phenomenon is a direct – though unintended – outcome of the Malaysian state’s formalization of the marriage-making process in Thailand – an intervention facilitated by the strengthening collaboration and cooperation between the Malaysian and Thai Islamic bureaucracies. At the same time, changing marriage patterns in Malaysia, as well as a general climate of growing conservatism and intolerance towards pre- or extra-marital intimacy, also make it all the more urgent for couples to be married before being intimate. I thus demonstrate how the desire for “lawful” intimacy can mobilize legal-bureaucratic interventions by the state in Muslims’ intimate lives, which paradoxically allow for the unregulated perpetuation of high-risk marriages such as early monogamy and covert polygyny.

Registration (required)

If you would like to attend this lecture, please register via the webform provided below.

About IIAS Lunch Lectures

Every month, one of the IIAS affiliated fellows will give an informal presentation about his/her work-in-progress for colleagues and others interested. Lunch lectures are sometimes also organised for visiting scholars.


IIAS organises these lectures to provide the research community with an opportunity to freely discuss ongoing research and exchange thoughts and ideas. Anyone with an interest in the subject matter at hand is welcome to attend and join the discussion.