GEORGE TOWN: The 11-year-old Rohingya girl who was nearly married off to a man 10 years her senior last week has stopped coming to school, with sources in the community saying her family has left town.
Activist K Sudhagaran Stanley, who has been keeping tabs on the girl, said her parents left town after the story of her impending marriage went viral.
This was after the police and religious authorities prevented the marriage between the girl and a 21-year-old man, who is also a Rohingya.
The parents then told the police they would marry off their daughter when she reaches legal age.
Sudhagaran, who co-runs a school for refugees, said the girl had stopped coming to school. Members of the community, meanwhile, said the family had left either for Sungai Dua in Butterworth or Sungai Petani, Kedah.
Sudhagaran also dismissed a report in a Malay-language tabloid claiming that the girl had wanted to get married, saying her teachers had described her as a stellar student who wanted to continue studying.
“We believe she could have been coerced into speaking to the media that way,” he said when contacted.
He instead suggested that the girl’s stepmother had been intent on “getting rid of her” by marrying her off.
Sudhagaran urged the welfare authorities to track down the family and monitor them for attempts to marry the girl off again.
“If she is no longer safe with her parents, then child services must take her into custody and provide protection.”
On Wednesday, Sudhagaran alerted the authorities to the girl’s impending marriage, which was called off after police insistence.
The girl’s 46-year-old father told officers he had wanted to marry off his eldest daughter as he was facing financial difficulties. He also said this was a common practice in the Rohingya community.