Leicester City owner’s Buddhist funeral starts in Thailand with royal honour

Asia

BANGKOK: The funeral of Thai billionaire and Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, killed in a helicopter crash a week ago, got underway at a Bangkok temple on Saturday (Nov 3) with a Buddhist bathing rite using water bestowed by the Thai King.

Vichai, 60, founder of Thai duty-free giant King Power International, was killed last Saturday along with four others when his helicopter crashed outside the King Power Stadium in the English city of Leicester after a Premier League match.

Funeral for Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, late chairman of Leicester City Football Club, in a Bangkok
A picture of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, late chairman of Leicester City Football Club, is seen on a screen as people attend his funeral, in Bangkok, Thailand November 3, 2018. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

READ: Fans in shock after Leicester City helicopter crash

The funeral, closed to the public and media, was attended by Vichai’s relatives, friends and senior Thai politicians and football officials.

It began with a bathing ritual using royally-bestowed water and an eight-sided urn lent as an honour by King Maha Vajiralongkorn, and was followed by recitation ceremonies which will last for seven days.

Funeral for Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, late chairman of Leicester City Football Club, in a Bangkok
People are seen in front of a temple before a funeral of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, late chairman of Leicester City Football Club, in Bangkok, Thailand November 3, 2018. Picture taken with long exposure. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Thailand’s kings have traditionally granted such honours at the funerals of high-ranking state officials or citizens who had devoted their lives to the good of the country.

Outside the temple on Saturday, Kiatisuk “Zico” Senamuang, a former Thai national football player and coach who was also at the Leicester match, told reporters that international soccer world had lost an important patron.

“I’m very proud of him … Not only the Thai people but also football fans around the world mourn his loss,” he said.

Funeral for Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, late chairman of Leicester City Football Club, in a Bangkok
Royal soldiers attend a procession at the temple where the funeral of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, late chairman of Leicester City Football Club will take place, in Bangkok, Thailand November 3, 2018. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy and his team mates will travel to Thailand for the funeral after Saturday’s Premier League match against Cardiff City.

Vichai, who bought Leicester City in 2010, was adored by fans after the club stunned the football world by beating odds of 5,000/1 to win the Premier League title in 2016 in what amounted to a sporting fairy tale.

The Thai tycoon died along with two members of his staff, the pilot and a passenger when the helicopter came down in a car park moments after taking off on Oct 27. His body arrived in Bangkok on Friday.

Funeral for Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, late chairman of Leicester City Football Club, in a Bangkok
People attend a procession with royal soldiers at the temple where the funeral of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, late chairman of Leicester City Football Club will take place, in Bangkok, Thailand November 3, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

He had close ties to the Thai royal family, being bestowed with the last name Srivaddhanaprabha – meaning “glowing light of prosperity” – as an honour to his family in 2012.

Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, nicknamed “Top”, Vichai’s youngest child and King Power’s chief executive officer, said last week that he has “received a very big mission and legacy” from his father.

Funeral for Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, late chairman of Leicester City Football Club, in a Bangkok
A monk attends a procession with royal soldiers at the temple where the funeral of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, late chairman of Leicester City Football Club will take place, in Bangkok, Thailand November 3, 2018. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Vichai’s death came just weeks before a planned auction for Thailand’s airport duty-free and commercial concessions, threatening to end King Power’s near monopoly of the sector.

Thailand's Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan pours royal water on flowers by the urn with remains of
Thailand’s Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan pours royal water on flowers by the urn with remains of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, late chairman of Leicester City Football Club, at Wat Thepsirin in Bangkok, Thailand, November 3, 2018. King Power Handout via REUTERS

King Power currently controls more than 90 per cent of Thailand’s duty-free market, being a sole operator with concessions in all major airports in the country until 2020.

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