Thailand riveted by news of crash amid conflicting information

Thais were riveted yesterday morning by the news of the helicopter crash at Leicester City football club, as the football fraternity fretted online about the condition of its owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha amid conflicting information about who was on board the aircraft.

Reporters who turned up at King Power's office in downtown Bangkok were told that there would be a press conference. As at press time, it had not taken place.

The press instead zeroed in on another football baron, Mr Newin Chidchob, who owns local league champion Buriram United football club and was at Pullman Bangkok King Power hotel next door. The motorcycle enthusiast looked grim as he left the hotel with his entourage of superbikes.

Contacted by The Straits Times yesterday evening, Mr Newin said he could not talk as he was in a meeting.

Mr Newin, who has built a football and motorsports empire in Buriram province, is a key figure in the Bhumjaithai political party.

Last night, Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul, who said he had just spoken to Mr Newin, told veteran journalist Suthichai Yoon via a Facebook Live interview: "We just lost someone who made big contributions to the public. I am sure his legacy will live on."

Mr Anutin, who has known Mr Vichai for more than 10 years, considered him a "big brother".

"He is a self-made man, worked hard and loved friends dearly," he said. "I told him that I loved riding horses and, the next day, a nice horse was sent to me... That's the way he was."

Meanwhile, businesswoman Nualphan Lamsam, who chairs local Port Football Club and manages Thailand's national women's football team, posted on her Instagram account: "Pang and family, together with all the players in Thailand's women's football team, send our thoughts and prayers to Khun Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and his family." Pang is her nickname.

At a football game in central Bangkok, Leicester City fan Apichart Jitratkavee said to Agence France-Presse of Mr Vichai: "He is an important person who has raised the bar of Thai football further."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 29, 2018, with the headline 'Thailand riveted by news of crash amid conflicting information'. Print Edition | Subscribe