Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh is seen with his new wife in the pictures that went viral on Tuesday. Photo: Facebook
In a surprising revelation, former Thai prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh disclosed yesterday that he was divorced 10 years ago and has been remarried for just as long.
Retired General Chavalit, 86, admitted publicly for the first time that he had divorced his long-time wife Khunying Phankrua, 79, about 10 years ago and married another woman – whose identity is not yet clear.
Their marriage was registered sometime after his 86th birthday on May 15, according to a source close to Chavalit.
He was reached by Kom Chad Luek newspaper, a Nation sister publication, after a photo of him with the woman at what appeared to be an engagement ceremony appeared in social media.
Chavalit said he married the woman about 10 years ago after divorcing his first wife. He also said he’d moved out of the house in Nonthaburi he shared with Khunying Phankrua to stay with his new wife in a house in Bangkok’s Kaset-Nawamin area.
“She took good care of me when I had health problems. We became close and decided to live together as husband and wife,” Chavalit said of his new wife. He added that he often accompanied her to social functions.
In 2016, he was hospitalised for several weeks after being injured in a fall. A Facebook user named “Orathai Sorakan” on Sunday posted the photo of Chavalit and the woman holding hands at what appeared to be an engagement ceremony.
The accompanying text said, “Most important for me. I now adopt the surname ‘Yongchaiyudh’. 19 May 2018.” Chavalit’s aide, Lt-General Pirach Sawamibhak, said the woman had long wished to announce her status through social media.
She continues to care for Chavalit as he has had difficulty walking since the accident, Pirach said.
Chavalit’s new wife is not well known. An Internet search turned up a news report about a woman named Orathai Sorakan filing for bankruptcy in November 2016.
Chavalit’s ex-wife Phankrua, who is best known by her nickname “Khunying Louis”, had asked for a divorce, according to the aide, who refused to discuss the matter further.
“The reason for their separation is their personal matter,” he said. Khunying Louis, who won several beauty contests in her youth, was Chavalit’s third wife.
The country’s 22nd prime minister, Chavalit served as the Royal Thai Army commander-in-chief between 1986 and 1990 and Supreme Commander from 1987 to 1990.
He was one of the most powerful figures at that time, in the military as well as in political circles. After his retirement from the service, Chavalit formed the political party New Aspiration.
He played a key role in an alliance opposing coup leader General Suchinda Kraprayoon’s elevation as non-elected prime minister in 1992. Subsequent street protests led to a deadly military crackdown later dubbed “Black May”.
In a general election held after the Suchinda government’s collapse, Chavalit’s party won the most seats in the House of Representatives and he became prime minister. But the administration was short-lived.
Chavalit stepped down just a little over a year later, as the Asian financial crisis took hold in 1997. Chavalit later joined Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai Party, but his influence was on the wane.
During political crises, he sometimes offered himself as a “linking chain” between the conflicting groups, but he was usually spurned.