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Posted by: Frederik Balfour on November 17, 2008
It’s certainly been an annus horribilis for former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. In October he was sentenced to two years in the slammer for abusing conflict-of-interest laws before he was deposed in a coup in September 2006. Last week his visa to the UK where he had been spending most of his time in self-imposed exile to evade further charges of corruption against him, was revoked on the grounds that the country should not harbour [British spelling is intentional here] a convicted criminal.
Now we learn that Thaksin’s marriage has failed too, at least on paper. He and his wife Pojaman untied the knot on November 14 in the Thai consul general’s office in Hong Kong, after 32 years of marriage. While in office, Thaksin transferred most of his more than $2 billion in assets to his Pojaman, believing that would remove him from any suspicion of conflict of interest. Pojaman, faces three years for tax evasion. There has been speculation that the split was manufactured so that Thaksin might be able to get some of his assets in Thailand un-frozen. Neither has made any official statement about the reasons for the divorce.
Since Thaksin fled Thailand two years ago, his critics have accused him of pulling strings from behind the scenes. Protestors have been occupying the parliament buildings in Bangkok since August, forcing the government to operate from a former airport. One of their major gripes is that the current Prime Minister, Somchai Wongsawat, is Pojaman’s brother. It’s unlikely however, that the divorce will convince protestors to decamp.
Thaksin, a former policeman, first made his fortune selling computers, eventually building a huge telecommunications empire, controlling TV and satellite communications. Pressure began to mount against him in early 2006 after his family tried to sell its shares in Shin Corp. to a consortium led by the investment arm of the Singapore government, Temasek for more than $3 billion in a botched deal. After fleeing Thailand, he bought the Manchester City Football Club. He sold it in August.
BusinessWeek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies. Eye on Asia’s bloggers include Asia regional editor Bruce Einhorn, Tokyo reporter Ian Rowley, Korea bureau chief Moon Ihlwan, Asia News Editor and China Bureau Chief. Dexter Roberts, and Hong Kong-based Asia correspondent Frederik Balfour.