Former Thai prime minister divorces

Ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has divorced his wife of the last 32 years, Potjaman, his spokesman said yesterday, although he offered few explanations for the shock separation.

"I can confirm that he has divorced but I did not ask for further details as I consider that personal," spokesman Pongthep Thepkanchana said.

The divorce was believed to have taken place last week at the Thai consulate in Hong Kong, where Thaksin has spent time since the British government revoked his visa a week ago, Pongthep added. The consulate declined to comment.

Thaksin's opponents and the Thai media, which has remained largely hostile since his removal in a 2006 coup, speculated the divorce was either a stunt to elicit sympathy back home or a financial decision to protect the couple's assets, most of which are thought to be in Potjaman's name.

Nearly $2 billion has been frozen in Thaksin's Thai bank accounts since the coup, and both he and his wife have been convicted of corruption or conflict of interest offences although have avoided jail by fleeing the country.

"I don't believe they are divorcing because they can no longer spend their lives together. They have shared happiness and sadness for such a very long time," said Sukhum Nualsakul, a political scientist at Bangkok's Ramkhmhaeng University.

"It must be other reasons," he said.

Thaksin and Potjaman, who was renowned as a formidable behind-the-scenes political operator during his five years in office, have three adult children.

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