A Thai engagement is a traditional part of the marriage ceremony. It is so woven into the social customs that a specific section of the Thai Civil and Commercial Code is reserved specifically on the legalities of the engagement ceremony.
An engagement can take place where each party has attained the minimum age of 17 years old. If the any of the parties are under the age of 20, they require the consent of their parents or guardian prior to getting engaged. Without the consent of their parents or guardians, an engagement by a minor is voidable.
In order for the engagement to be valid, a man must give property to the woman as proof that the marriage will occur. This is called “khongman.” In addition, the man must give the woman’s parents or guardian a sinsod which is property in return for the woman agreeing to marry. The sinsod and khongman can be forced to be return if the marriage does not occur because of the actions of the woman.
An engagement does not force the parties to get married. An agreement that contains a penalty for nonperformance of the marriage will make the engagement agreement void. However, if the woman is at fault for the nonperformance of the marriage, the man may sue in court for unjust enrichment and request the return of the property.
In addition, a party can sue for damages as a result of the breach of the engagement. The damage can be from injury to the reputation, debt, or expense incurred in preparation of the marriage, and damage to their occupational earnings. If one of the parties dies before the marriage, there cannot be a claim for damages. The statute of limitations for a claim of damages is six months from the date of the breach of engagement or the action which resulted in the end of the engagement.
In addition, the betroth man after the renouncing the engagement can claim damages from any man who has had sexual intercourse with the betroth woman and has known or should have known of her engagement. If a man attempts to have sexual intercourse with a betroth woman against her will, the betroth man can sue for damages without breaking the engagement. The claim for damages for sexual intercourse is six months from the date that the betroth man knows of the act up to a period of no more than five years.
In many cases, these rules are generally unnecessary since it is common place in Thailand to have the engagement ceremony in the morning of the wedding. This is done for the practical and economic purposes of completing the marriage in one day.