Funeral for Leicester City chairman Vichai begins in Bangkok

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A picture of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, late chairman of Leicester City Football Club, is placed next to his urn at Wat Thepsirin in Bangkok, on Nov 3, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK - Ministers, celebrities and magnates packed a temple in inner Bangkok on Saturday (Nov 3) as funeral rites began for Thai tycoon Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who died in a helicopter crash in Leicester City on Oct 27.

Mourners at the elaborate, royally sponsored funeral spilled over into several sections of Wat Thepsirin, a century old Buddhist temple.

Among them was Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda, as well Mr Dhanin Chearavanont, senior chairman of Thai conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group.

Also present was rock star Artiwara Kongmalai, better known as "Toon Bodyslam", as well key members of the football fraternity such as Football Association of Thailand president Somyot Poompanmoung and former head coach Kiatisuk Senamuang.

Former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, now vying to be re-elected as leader of the Democrat Party, also came to pay his respects.

Mr Vichai, 60, was chairman of Leicester City Football Club and Thai duty-free retailing giant King Power, as well as the fifth richest man in the Kingdom, when his helicopter spun out of control near the football stadium and crashed near King Power Stadium.

Four other people died in the crash. Two of them, Ms Nursara Suknamai and Mr Kaveporn Punpare, were Mr Vichai's employees.

The other two were pilots Eric Swaffer and Izabela Roza Lechowicz, who were also a couple.

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Investigators are examining the contents of the flight data recorder recovered from the wreckage.

Mr Vichai, whose duty-free empire has footprints in all major Thai airports, is survived by his wife and four children, all of whom are on the executive board of King Power. .

Pictures of the convoy that ferried Mr Vichai's remains from the airport to Wat Thepsirin were splashed across Thai media on Saturday.

The temple, which houses the country's only permanent royal crematorium, is frequented by Thai elites and was also where Thailand's former Supreme Patriarch, or most senior monk, was cremated in 2015.

Mr Vichai's surname means "light of progressive glory". It was bestowed on him by then King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 2012.

For Saturday's ceremony, reigning King Maha Vajiralongkorn also granted a ceremonial tiered umbrella and an octagonal urn.

Wreaths from the palace were also presented to Mr Vichai's relatives on Saturday.

Cremation is expected to take place after 100 days.

Mr Vichai grabbed international attention when the unfancied second-tier Leicester City Football Club he bought in 2010 grabbed the premier league title in 2016.

Publicity material for his funeral ran under the heading "The Possible Man".

Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy told British media that he and his teammates will fly to Thailand to attend Mr Vichai's funeral after the team's premier league match against Cardiff City on Saturday.

The club also gave free breakfasts and special T-shirts paying tribute to Mr Vichai to Leicester City supporters attending this match.

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