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Being a Thai wife abroad can be risky

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In this excerpt from a Sunday Spectrum story about Thai wives who go abroad, we learn about Mali who ended up being sold repeatedly in Germany.

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You can read the full, much longer story here: http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/special-reports/1209173/tied-in-a-knot-the-thai-wives-who-go-abroad  As of this morning the story had 55 comments from readers, so you might want to check them out as well.

Tied in a knot: the Thai wives who go abroad

CHAIYOT YONGCHAROENCHAI

After 12 years in a bad marriage, Mali, a 33-year-old woman from Kham Ta Kla in Sakon Nakhon, made a bold move that many women from her village would never dream of doing. Getting a divorce bears a heavy stigma in a culture where special emphasis is placed on remaining a virgin before marriage. It's hard to find Thai men interested in dating female divorcees.

But Mali had had enough of her abusive Thai husband who would spend all day drinking and was incapable of working. She divorced him to seek a better future for herself.

She realised no Thai men from her own village would want to pursue her as a partner, so she decided it was best to put her past behind her and start a whole new life in Bangkok.

In 2006, Mali moved to Bangkok where she found work at a restaurant in the Sukhumvit area. A majority of her clients were Western men. With a fit body and pretty face, it wasn't hard for her to get male attention.

One day at work, she met a German man named Hunt who was enamoured of her straight away. At that point, Mali's English-language abilities were limited, so she spoke to Hunt with the help of a friend who knew some German and some English. Hunt knew he wanted to date Mali, but she told him she was still married and, besides, she already had a daughter.

But Hunt didn't mind the fact she wasn't a virgin. She agreed to go out with him.

Over the course of three months, they both fell madly in love. They got married not long afterwards and moved to Germany together.

That's where Mali's Cinderella story took a terrible turn – she was sold off by her husband to another German man.

Mali's tale of leaving Thailand is what many Thai girls, particularly from the Northeast, dream of. In this part of the country, the job market is limited and the minimum wage low.

In a place where well-paid jobs are nearly impossible to come by, marrying a Westerner is considered the next best way to get out of poverty. But not many people know what these women have to go through and how many of them end up in broken marriages.

MY WIFE, MY GOODS

After three months of dating, Hunt asked Mali to marry him. He wanted to take her back to Germany with him. Mali felt a love she had never experienced with her ex-husband.

Shortly after, they got married in two ceremonies – one in Sakon Nakhon and one in Germany. The first few months of married life seemed to go smoothly for the couple.

Then Hunt turned abusive. He started to get upset with seemingly everything that Mali did. After three years of a bad relationship, Hunt had enough of Mali. He wanted to get rid of her.

"I couldn't speak German and I had a limited knowledge of English," said Mali. "One time, I saw Hunt talking to Frank, his friend. They were looking at me and pointing at me, but I had no idea what they were talking about. The next day, Frank came back with money in his hand. He gave the money to Hunt and told me 'let's go'."

Mali had no idea what was happening in the moment. Hunt simply told her to pack up her belongings and get out of the house. She was confused but followed his instructions.

She was driven to Frank's house where, after a week of staying there, she realised she had been sold off by Hunt. From thereon in, she performed the role of the "good wife" – cleaning, cooking and having sex with Frank. She had barely known him before then.

They lived together for two years before Mali was sold off to another man – discarded like expired goods. She had no negotiation power and no safe place nearby to flee.

So she went along with the men, having no other choice.

"I missed my family so much, especially my daughter," said Mali. "I wanted to go home but I couldn't. I didn't have any money at all. I thought I would live a glamorous and happy life in Europe with the man I loved, but in fact it was nothing but a living hell."

The third man got tired of Mali within a year. She was sold off yet again to his friend named Mike. Of all the German men she had been with, Mike seemed to care about her the most sincerely. He helped send her to language schools, where she learned both German and English. He cared enough to ask Mali how she ended up in this life.

After six years of being moved around from one house to another, Mali felt she had met a man who truly loved her. With him, she knew she would never be sold off or exploited again.

Mali lived with Mike in Germany for four years before moving to Sakon Nakhon to build a house in her hometown. At the age of 44, she had made her dream life come true.

Surrounded by her loving family, Mali and Mike now live happily in Kham Ta Kla.

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