Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon pours royally bestowed water at the bathing ceremony of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha on Saturday. (Pool photos)
The funeral of King Power and Leicester City football club chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was held on Saturday, with well-known figures mourning the duty-free mogul.
The ceremony was held at Wat Thep Sirintharawat in Bangkok.
The Royal Household Bureau brought funeral water bestowed by His Majesty the King for the bathing rite at 3.50pm on Saturday.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon and CP group chairman Dhanin Chearavanont, the richest man in the country, arrived at the week-long evening ceremony, which began with the bathing rites.
Prominent figures in the music and sporting scene were also in attendance to honour the odds-defying life of Vichai, 60, who along with four others died in a helicopter accident moments after they departed the football club’s pitch a week ago.
Other guests were Gen Anupong Paochinda, interior minister; Pol Gen Somyot Poompunmuang, president of the Football Association of Thailand; Newin Chidchob, a former minister and MP; Tassapon Bijleveld, chairman of the board of Asia Aviation Plc which operates Thai AirAsia; Thai football legend Kiatisak “Zico” Senamuang and Atiwara “Toon Bodyslam” Kongmalai, a rocker and charity runner.
The bathing ceremony with royally bestowed water was held at 5.30pm, followed by chanting at 6.30pm. For the rest of the daily funeral rites to Nov 9, the chanting will start at 7pm.
The tragic ending stunned people who had followed Vichai’s fairytale-like success and the days since have been filled with heartfelt comments from admirers, footballers, friends and relatives.
“He’s now the leader of Thai football and leader of world football because he changed a lot of things when he took the chairmanship of Leicester City,” Kiatisak told AFP outside the ceremony, his tone sombre.
“Because Leicester can show they could be champion of the Premier League, that’s why anything in Thailand can happen in the future.
Kiatisak added Mr Vichai gave him an opportunity to be an ambassador for Thailand’s King Power duty-free empire and promoted Thai football teams.
Toon praised Mr Vichai for supporting his charity marathon for hospitals by donating 100 million baht.
Vichai rose from having a single store in Bangkok to owning the duty-free King Power empire, whose shops are ubiquitous in Thailand’s tourist-heavy airports.
Using the profits from his monopoly, he bought Leicester City and helped turn them from an unremarkable English club into the surprise winners of the Premier League title in 2016.
Despite his business smarts, Vichai owed his ascent to canny navigation of unpredictable politics and powerbrokers.
The private funeral at Wat Thepsirin has regal touches, with an octagonal urn among the items given by the king and court musicians playing drums and flutes.
After the bathing rites, Buddhist monks will recite prayers daily until Friday and the body will then be kept for 100 days before cremation, though a date has not been set.
Members of the Leicester team including coach Claude Puel are due to fly to Thailand to pay their respects after what is likely to be an emotion-packed afternoon away match against Cardiff City Saturday.
“We all spoke about … wanting to play, it’s what Vichai would’ve wanted and that’s what we are going to do,” striker Jamie Vardy told Sky Sports, adding that they would “honour his name” with their performance.
Vardy, goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and captain Wes Morgan, are expected to travel to Thailand along with Puel and senior staff.
Vichai leaves behind a wife and four children, two sons and two daughters.
All five are on the executive board of King Power, which faces an uncertain future.