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FAMILY LAW OF THAILAND
By Wimolsiri Jamnarnwej*
The Thai Government celebrated the International Women's Year by guaranteeing equal rights for men and women in Article 28 paragraph 2 of the Constitution B.E. 2517 (A.D.1974). The Civil and Commercial Code book 5 (family) has been revised on that principle to and entered into force on October 16. B.E. 2519 (A.D. 1976).
The following short article intends to give an introduction to the subject.
A. BETROTHAL AND A PROMISE TO MARRY
A betrothal or an engagement can be effected only when a man and a woman have attained the full age of seventeen years.(1)
If each other of them is under seventeen years of age, the betrothal is void. A minor who reaches the age of seventeen but is under twenty years of age may be betrothed only when the consent of the following persons have been obtained(2):
(1) The father and the mother. In the case where the father and the mother are living. (2) The father or the mother in the case of death of the other parent or where the other parent has been deprived of parental power. (3) His or her adopter, in case where a minor is an adopted. (4) The guardian, in the case where there are on parents, or the father or the mother where the other parents has been deprived of his or her parental power.
A betrothal agreement is effective only when the man gives "Khongman" or engagement property to the woman as evidence that the man will marry the women.(3)
The law does not require that every marriage must begin with a betrothal. But it recognizes that if a betrothal has been made, the injured party is entitled to claim damages from the party which commits a breach of the betrothal agreement.(4) The man who is betrothed to a woman can claim damages from any man who has wrongfully had sexual intercourse with such woman after he has rescinded the betrothal agreement.(5) He can also claim compensation from another man who has raped or attempted to rape his fiancee if that man knew or ought to have known that such woman had been betrothed to the claimant without the rescission of such betrothal agreement being necessary. A woman who is betrothed is not entitled to claim from another woman who has had sexual intercourse with her fiance. She can only refuse to marry him if he cohabits with another woman as husband and wife on the ground that he has committed a misconduct and made it unsuitable for her to marry him. She can rescind the betrothal agreement without returning the "Khongman", i.e. engagement property, to the man.(6)
A promise to marry without giving property to the woman as evidence to marry her is another type of contract, not a betrothal. If either party commits a breach of that promise, the other party is not entitled to claim compensation. There is no provision concerning a promise to marry under the present Thai family law.(7)
* Associated Professor of Law, Dean Faculty of law, Saint John's University, Former Minister of Office of Universities Affairs.
(1) Civil and Commercial Code , Article 1435.
(2) Civil and Commercial Code , Article 1436.
(3) Civil and Commercial Code, Article 1437.
(4) Civil and Commercial Code, Article 1439.
(5) Civil and Commercial Code, Article 1445.
(6) Civil and Commercial Code, Article 1443.
(7) Supreme Court decision, No. 1971/2517.