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Opponents of the surge in Thai wives raise concerns

Wednesday 26th October 2011 8:14pm

Dramatic increase in Finnish men marrying Thai women

An increase in marriages between men from Finland and Thai women has resulted in a review by authorities in Finland into the phenomenon.

There has been a steady increase in marriage between Finnish men and Thai women. While most are successful, vocal critics of the trend are claiming incidences of domestic violence and of some Thai women entering the sex trade. Authorities in Finland cite strong cultural differences and say more needs to be done to help integrate Thai wives into the Finnish way of life. Nevertheless, it has been widely reported in Finland that Thai women make wonderful wives and are very attentive to their Finnish husband and family. Most Thai wives in Finland are fulltime housewives and studies conducted by the government in Finland show that over 90% of such marriages are happy ones.

Marriage between Finnish men and Thai women

Over the past two years there has been an estimated 46% increase in marriages between Finnish men and Thai women, with an estimated 4,000 taking place in 2011. Many of these couples have met using online dating sites such as ThaiLoveLines. More Finnish men are visiting Thailand with the deliberate intention of finding a wife or relationship partner, while others meet young Thai women casually while on vacation.

According to Statistic Finland Chief Actuary Matti Saari, although the 2004 tsunami led to a collapse in Thai tourism, the number of marriages to Thai women actually increased. Tourism to Thailand has been recovering in recent years, and many Finnish men have experienced the traditional beauty of Asian women at first hand. They are also frequently impressed by the faithfulness shown by Thai women to their husbands.

While most such cross-cultural marriages thrive and have endured, some have not, and some Finnish men have difficulty understanding the tie of Thai women to their family: when they marry the woman they also marry her family.

Problems for Thai women in Finland

A Thai wife's traditional primary function is to keep her husband happy, and look after her home and family. It has been reported that most Thai wives in Finland stay at home and do not work outside it. Critics of the wave of Thai wives settling in Finland point to this as evidence of an inability to integrate into the local community. According to the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, up to half of all Thai women living in Finland, could be outside the safety net of society, living underground and often their whereabouts are unknown.

This report is based upon a recent report by the Ministry of the Interior that states over 100 Thai women in Finland suffer domestic violence, or are involved in the sex industry. However, the paper goes on to note that between 800 and 1,200 Thai women are believed to live a satisfactory life as a housewife in Finland. Nevertheless, some groups claim that many suffer domestic violence and oppression, even being forced or choose to work in massage parlours. They say that around 10% of women from Thailand living in Finland have no residence permit or permanent address. There is, however, firm evidence that some Thai women have been exploited in Finland.

Reports on situation of Thai women

Due to a popular uproar regarding massage parlours two years ago, Interior Minister Anne Holmlund requested a report on how conditions for Thai women could be improved. Research was carried out and a report was written by senior inspector Tiina Pesonen, who states that it is still difficult to establish the number of Thai women estranged from society.

The report went on to state that women entering Finland through marriage are unable to participate in integration schemes, and their partners frequently prevent them from applying.

The report outlined a frightening scenario where some women in Thai-Finnish marriages are subject to violence from their partner, which is why some resort to the sex trade rather than live at home. They do not seek divorce; in fact they fear it, because they believe that this could result in revocation of their residence permits. The report goes on to add that they are frequently unaware of their right to apply for a new residence permit after divorce or on valid humanitarian grounds.

Improved police assistance should be provided to help Thai women subject to domestic violence, the report goes on to add, and help avoid them feeling forced to enter the sex trade by assisting them with new residence permit applications. According to Helsingen Sanomat, guidelines will be formulated by the Police Division of the Interior Ministry to help such women.

Thai women most popular with Finnish men

Thai women are now becoming more popular with Finnish men than Russian women, and there are now more Thai wives in Finland than Russian brides. Internet message boards and chat rooms are filled with questions regarding Thai brides: the experience of others, how to find them and advice on how to marry them.

According to Hannu Sirkkilä, a doctor of social sciences who has been carrying out studies of international mixed race marriages, including Finnish-Thai marriages, some men visit Thailand just to find a wife while for others it is a matter of chance. Divorced men, or men with a bad experience of a Finnish wife, will likely prefer a wife whose objective is to please her husband, with the gender roles clearly defined. He also notes that those with friends or acquaintances with Thai wives find it easier to make contacts in Thailand.

He confirms that gender roles and mental images of Thai women as being extremely beautiful have a significant impact on the situation. However, it frequently happens that the conception does not fit the realities of continual married life.

Sirkkilä also notes that finding work in Finland is not easy for many Thai women, since many are only modestly educated and cannot speak Finnish.

However, the vast majority of these marriages are successful: 54 Year-old Ari met his future Thai wife on an internet dating site featuring Thai women seeking marriage. He sates: 'I first came to Thailand seeking a girlfriend' two years after his 13 year- old relationship with a Finnish woman had ended. The left him feeling depressed and 'now me and Noi are so happy, we are married and enjoy weekends by the sea. . .'

To Thai women, the Finnish climate is a shock. The biggest problem that Noi has is the climate - she finds it so cold. 'It is cold and dark but I like the people here so much,' she says.

90% of Thai-Finnish marriages are Happy but ...

While marriage between Thai women and Finnish men are increasing, those between Thai men and Finnish women are very low. Only around 40 known marriages of this nature are known in Finland. Compared to the 4,000+ each year of marriages involving Thai women, it is evident that something phenomenal is going on. Ari thinks he knows what it is: 'For me it as the only answer and already I have one friend married to a woman from Thailand.'

In fact, both Thai women and Finish men often have a second agenda in mind when they decide to marry. The Thai woman comes from a culture where working family members, or those with money, look after their elders and unemployed family. Many Thai girls want to marry westerners for their money, so they can help look after their family. Finnish men seek Thai wives for their beauty and commitment to their husband and family: 'Noi has many friends in Thailand that want to live in Finland too, these women are more old fashioned, this is it, men in Finland are looking for old fashioned girls, this is it.'

According to the Monika-Multicultural Women's Association in Finland Executive Manager Reet Nurmi, 'marriages between Thais and Finns are based on a desire for a sincere relationship'. Many Finnish men contact the Association from Thailand requesting information regarding courses and clubs that could help their wives become integrated with Finnish society says Nurmi.

There are no doubts that most marriages of this type are genuinely based upon love, but opponents and feminists in Finland claim that these relationships are based upon sex and a perception that the man is gaining a sexual partner and housekeeper. Nurmi confirms that there bad cases and this is not helping the overall profile for Finnish men marrying Thai women. ' people imagine that they can return their foreign wives to us. A man brings with him his 'future ex-wife' and packed suitcases', Nurmi says.

This is a poor basis for a marriage, and why some marriages between Thai women and Finnish men do fail - the Thai woman then has to find some other way to make money for her family back in Thailand and she is also afraid of being deported should she become divorced.

Thai women make excellent and loving wives, as those that have entered in long-lasting happy multi-cultural marriages will attest. Thai women are believed to be among the most beautiful women in the world, and the most attentive to their husbands and family. However more must be done to educate Thai women immigrating to foreign countries and to provide them with support. The Thai government recently announced a programme to provide such facilities at all Thai embassies and consulates worldwide.

Ari says: 'I think the best thing is for Thai women in Finland to do what they do in other countries, get together and help each other. This will happen here too. Only for me I am very happy with my beautiful Thai wife Noi and I hope this will be for everybody.' is Thailand’s biggest internet dating site with over 355,000 members and growing rapidly …Begin your search for a Thai girlfriend, wife or partner here.

The numbers of Thai women living in Finland with Finnish men is increasing at a fast rate.
Finnish men are opting to marry Thai women in large numbers. Now there are more Thai wives than Russian wives but opponents of the trend have raised concerns about the treatment of Thai women and the ability of stay at home Thai wives to integrate.
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