Video #27 | March 15, 2018
In this video, I’m going to look at a term that is often mentioned in Thailand-based discussions, but rarely explained. That of a mia noi, or minor wife.
The video will be broken down into 7 sections:
– So what is a mia noi?
– How things work.
– What do the Thai really think about mia noi?
– The legal situation of mia noi.
– An open secret.
– Mia noi in Thai soap operas. [Plus footage from the popular Thai TV series ‘mia luang’].
– Are times changing?
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Welcome to the twenty-seventh video of Bangkok Unmasked! The YouTube channel that helps you get the most out of your visit to Bangkok city! If you’re new here, please consider subscribing! In this video, I’m going to look at a term that is often mentioned in Thailand-based discussions, but rarely explained. That of a mia noi, or minor wife.
Let’s get started…
So what is a mia noi?
It’s common practice for men in Thailand to have a ‘mia noi’. So what is a ‘mia noi’? Roughly translated the term means ‘minor wife’, or mistress. The practice has been common in Thai culture for centuries. Even in modern-day Thailand, a good number of Thai men will have a mia luang [a major wife] and then have a mia noi. It’s not uncommon for very rich Thai men to have several mia noi.
How things work
Support for a Mia Noi generally includes a separate residence, a car and spending money. If many people know about the lady, she is considered a mia noi. However, if the lady is a closely guarded secret, she is considered a girlfriend, or ‘gik’.
For the most part, the way things work is that the mia luang takes care of the family, and any children. The mia noi takes care of the husband. This is generally his sexual needs, and whatever else that’s missing from the relationship with the mia luang. However, sometimes the mia noi might also have children with her sponsor. My suspicion is that most Thai men don’t intend to have children with their mia noi. The mia noi know that having a child is one way to maintain the relationship, and money-flow.
What do the Thai really think about mia noi?
A survey from 2009-2010 gives some insight into how the Thai view the practice of having a minor wife. Ramathibodi Hospital conducted the survey as part of a domestic violence study. The Nation Newspaper reported the study. It explored state officials’ attitudes towards men possessing minor wives. Almost 60 per cent of the men surveyed said having a minor wife was a man’s personal business. Only 28.5 per cent mentioned it as an immoral act. About half of the women said having a mia noi was an immoral act. 39 per cent of women felt it was a very personal matter.
The legal situation of mia noi
The legal situation in Thailand regarding minor wives is clear. There is no basis for a second wife under Thai marriage law which states:
A man or a woman cannot marry each other while one of them has a spouse.
Marriage and divorce laws in Thailand are surprisingly modern, and based on the western model. However, up until 1935, polygamy was very much part of the Thai legal framework regarding marriage. Up until 1935, there were three different forms of wife in Thailand. ‘Mia klang muang’ was the first form of wife. This was the ‘official wife’ that the husband’s parents had ‘acquired for him’. ‘Mia klang nok’ was the second form of wife. This was the ‘minor wife’, whom the man acquired after his first marriage. Finally, ‘mia klang thasi’ was the third form of wife. This was the title given to slave wives that were purchased from their mother and father. All children resulting from the three types of union were recognized as legitimate.
An open secret
Of course, you’re unlikely to find a Thai man who will admit that he has a mia noi. Over the years a number of Thai friends have introduced me to their wife’s friends, and later told me that they’re a ‘mia noi’. To my surprise, one even had a child with her ‘husband’. I had always wondered how some women had access to so much money, yet they didn’t come from money, or work. In all cases they were attractive women, or ‘pretties’! In one of these cases I was told that the major wife knew about the minor wife. It seems that the major wife saw it as an outsourcing of sexual services. As long as her needs, and her children’s needs were being met, the arrangement was quite satisfactory from her view-point.
Mia noi in Thai soap operas
Thai soap opera’s, also known as lakorn, frequently cover the subject of mia noi. In 2017 there was a very popular series called Mia Luang. My wife, like many Thai women, was hooked on this TV series. The story is about, and I quote:
a very wealthy, famous, well-educated, and respected couple. Everyone assumes that they’re happily married and live a very good life, while in reality they have a lot of problems. The problems start from Dr. Aniroot, the husband who is a player and has a lot of mistresses. His wife Dr. Wiganda is a smart woman who endures his misbehavior and his many women. Among his women, there is only Ornin who seems to openly come in between the couple without shame.
What follows is a teaser for the series. I think that it’s quite enlightening as to how the Thai view, and deal with, the subject of mia noi!
Are times changing?
The husband traditionally used to control the family’s money. This meant that the major wife wasn’t likely to rock the boat when it came to a mia noi. If she did her husband might leave, and she could be left in dire financial straits. However, things are changing in modern day Thai culture. Especially in Bangkok, a lot of major wives now have jobs and money of their own. This means that if needs be they can take care of themselves, and any children.
A number of Thai men over the years have asked me whether I have a mia noi. My answer has always been the same. One wife is more than enough! When I try to explain that keeping two women happy is more effort that it’s worth, I have been met with bemused looks.
Anyway…That’s it for this video. I hope that helps answer all your questions about mia noi. Expect a new video shortly. It should be posted in about a week, or so.
For all you techies out there, this video was shot on a Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus, and edited using HitFilm Express.
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Thank you very much for watching. I’ll see you next week. Goodbye.