QUANG TRI (VNS)— Nearly 300 unregistered marriages between Vietnamese and Lao people have been reported in the mountainous districts of Huong Hoa and Dakrong of central Quang Tri Province.
These marriages have led these couples, particularly the women and children, to several problems, the local authorities said.
Quang Tri shares a 206-km border line with Laos, which crosses 18 communes in the two districts, home to more than 12,300 households with 58,000 residents.
Trade and exchanges between people living in border areas of the two countries is conducted regularly, leading to a high number of marriages. Often these couples share assets and start families without any legal procedures.
|Couples between Vietnamese and Lao get their marriage certificate in Huong Phung commune, Huong Hoa district, Quang Tri Province.— VNA/VNS photo
Standing Vice Chairman of the provincial Bar Association Vo Cong Hoan said there were many reasons why these couples did not often apply for marriage registration.
"The lack of knowledge that local people and judicial officers have about the procedure as well as differences in marriage registration regulations in the two countries are to blame for the problem," he said.
"It is also caused by the traditions and customs of local people. Pako and Van Kieu ethnic minority people, for example, have a tradition that allows couples to marry without registration. They just need a nod from the village's patriarchs," he added.
A survey by the association has also revealed that more than 60 per cent of people in cross-border marriages are illiterate, making written guidance for the procedures insufficient.
Hoan said that without the law's protection, couples can be vulnerable if problems arise in their marriage and divorce and custody cases become difficult to settle.
Ho Thi Den from Huong Hoa District's Thanh commune said that she married a Lao man following her village's customs without registering with local authorities.
"After having three children, my husband told me that I was old and ugly and our life together was too hard. He then left me and married a Lao girl," Den told Tin Tuc (News) newspaper.
Without protection from the law, Den could not claim everything she would be otherwise entitled to.
Around 1,052 Lao people were living in 17 communes bordering Laos in 2011.
The bar association has worked with the local judicial offices of these communes to raise people's awareness of the importance of marriage registration, and since August last year more than 220 couples have followed this advice.
The association plans to propose that the Ministry of Justice simplify administrative procedures relating foreigners living in land border areas. — VNS