Mechai Viravaidya

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Mechai Viravaidya
มีชัย วีระไวทยะ
Mechai Viravaidya 2008.jpg
Mechai at Skoll World Forum in 2008
Personal details
Born (1941-01-17) 17 January 1941 (age 82)
Bangkok, Siam
SpouseThanpuying Putrie Viravaidya
ChildrenSujima Saengchaiwuttikun
Alma materInternational House, Melbourne

Mechai Viravaidya (born 17 January 1941, Thai: มีชัย วีระไวทยะ; RTGSMichai Wirawaithaya) is a former politician and activist in Thailand who promoted condoms, family planning and AIDS awareness in Thailand.[1] Since the 1970s, Mechai has been affectionately known as "Mr. Condom", and condoms are often referred as "mechais" in Thailand.[2] From the time that he began his work, the average number of children in Thai families has decreased from 7 to 1.5.[3] He has been credited with leading efforts which improved the lives of millions of people.[4]

Early life[edit]

Mechai was born in Bangkok to a Scottish mother and a Thai father, both of whom were doctors and had met when studying in Edinburgh.[5][6] He is one of four children. His younger brother, Sunya, is the founder of the Pattaya International Hospital. One of his sisters, Sumalee Viravaidya, was a noted journalist in the 1970s, writing for the Bangkok Post and the Nation. Mechai was educated in Australia at Geelong Grammar School and at Trinity College at the University of Melbourne, where he obtained a Bachelor of Commerce degree. In 1965,[7] he returned to Thailand and in 1966[8] started to work in family planning, emphasizing the use of condoms. In 1973, he left the civil service and founded a non-profit service organization, the Population and Community Development Association (PDA), to continue his efforts to improve the lives of the rural poor.[7] He used such events as holding condom blowing contests for school children, encouraging taxi drivers to hand out condoms to their customers, and founding a restaurant chain called Cabbages and Condoms, where condoms are given to customers with the bill.

An interesting side note is the family planning clinic which openly operates next to the Cabbages and Condoms restaurant. This is one of several places in Bangkok where poor women can receive pregnancy termination, a practice which is legal in the country per Section 305 of the Thailand penal code, but often perceived as illegal.[9][10] The clinic is permitted by the authorities due to the dangers of unsafe abortion by Thai women because of "economic difficulties".[11]

Later life[edit]

Mechai served as deputy minister of industry from 1985 to 1986 under prime minister Prem Tinsulanonda. He served as senator from 1987 until 1991. During this time AIDS appeared in Thailand, and he increased his efforts to promote sexual-safety awareness.

A military coup in 1991 installed prime minister Anand Panyarachun who then appointed Mechai minister for tourism, information and AIDS. He was able to start a large and quite successful AIDS education campaign and served until 1992. At that time he became the chairman of the Foundation for International Education, the non-profit organization that serves as the governing body of NIST International School. Mechai continued to serve as the chair until stepping down in May, 2002.

In 1995 he was appointed an Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia, for "service to Australian-Thai relations and contributions to the world AIDS debate".[12]

In 2004, Mechai again became a senator. In 2006 he won praise from the toilet industry (but criticism from the retail industry) for proposing that retailers be obliged to build a public toilet for every 10 square metres of retail space.[13]

As of 2007, he continues to oversee rural development and health initiatives as the Chairman of PDA, now the largest NGO in Thailand, with 600 employees and 12,000 volunteers. On May 29, 2007, PDA was awarded the 2007 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Gates Award in recognition of its pioneering work in family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention.[14] This award came with funds of $1,000,000.[15]


  1. ^ Mechai Viravaidya, 60 Years of Asian Heroes, Time Asia, 13 November 2006
  2. ^ Pesek, William Jr. (21 April 2005). "Six influential Asians changing their part of the world". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 18 June 2015.
  3. ^ TED Talk, 7 October 2010
  4. ^ Mydans, Seth (5 August 2022). "'Captain Condom' Turned the Tide in Thailand's War on AIDS and Overpopulation". The New York Times.
  5. ^ Corness, Iain (31 January 2003). "Successfully Yours: Mechai Viravaidya". Pattaya Mail. Retrieved 19 June 2015.
  6. ^ Shenon, Philip (20 December 1992). "Conversations/Mechai Viravaidya; Brash and Unabashed, Mr. Condom Takes on Sex and Death in Thailand". New York Times. Retrieved 19 June 2015.
  7. ^ a b Gates, Bill (22 October 2018). "All Hail the Condom King". gatesnotes. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
  8. ^ "Mechai Viravaidya Foundation|". Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  9. ^ Thailand Penal Code Section 301-305
  10. ^ Thailand Archived 2008-07-29 at the Wayback Machine, in The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 1997-2001
  11. ^ The Health Impact of Unsafe Abortion
  12. ^ It's an Honour
  13. ^ Toilet-train food firms: Mechai, The Nation, 18 November 2006 Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ 2007 Gates Award for Global Health: PDA, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Retrieved 2010-01-02. Archived 1 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Mike Nizza (29 May 2007), "Cabbages and Condoms, a Winning Idea", The Lede

Further reading[edit]

  • Thomas D'Agnes. From condoms to cabbages: An authorized biography of Mechai Viravaidya. Post Books 2001. ISBN 974-228-009-6

External links[edit]