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November 15, 2008

Thai media report ex-first couple’s divorce
Thailand’s fugitive ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has divorced his wife in Hong Kong, Thai newspapers reported on Saturday.

Thaksin and his wife Pojaman Shinawatra, who married in 1976, divorced at the Thai Consul General Office in Hong Kong on Friday, the Associated Press reported, quoting the English-language Nation and Bangkok Post newspapers.

The stories could not be independently verified with the consulate, which is closed through the weekend, and repeated phone calls to Thaksin confidants were not answered.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy spokesman Thanee Thongpakdi said on Saturday the ministry does not comment on individual cases.

'We received a report that they went to the consulate to file for a divorce but it was not officially confirmed since it's personal business and not a matter of the state,' another foreign ministry official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to media.

Thaksin's spokesman in Thailand, Mr Pongthep Thepkanjana, said he could not confirm the reports.

Thaksin's close political ally Jakrapob Penkair confirmed on Friday that the former prime minister was in Hong Kong, but he gave no details. Jakrapob served as government spokesman while Thaksin was prime minister.

Thaksin was sentenced in absentia by a Thai court in October to two years in prison for violating a conflict of interest law while he was prime minister. Britain revoked his visa last week while he was travelling.

The Bangkok Post cited an unidentified political observer as saying the divorce could have been motivated to protect the couple's assets, which are mostly held in the name of Pojaman.

Last year the National Anti-Corruption Commission revealed Thaksin officially declared assets worth 614.39 million baht (S$26.9 million) when he took office in 2001, while Mr Pojaman had 8.48 billion baht, the Bangkok Post reported.

Thaksin was prime minister until September 2006 when he was toppled in a bloodless military coup. He still wields influence with the government, and protesters have occupied the main government office in Bangkok for the past three months seeking to force his allies from power as well.

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