Wednesday, July 24, 2019

King attends cremation of Leicester City owner Vichai

Mar 21. 2019
King Maha Vajiralongkorn (R) lights a royal fire during the royalty-sponsored cremation ceremony for Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the late Chairman of Leicester City soccer club, at Wat Debsirindrawas Ratchaworawiharn Temple. // EPA-EFE PHOTO
King Maha Vajiralongkorn (R) lights a royal fire during the royalty-sponsored cremation ceremony for Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the late Chairman of Leicester City soccer club, at Wat Debsirindrawas Ratchaworawiharn Temple. // EPA-EFE PHOTO
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By Agence France-Presse
Bangkok, Thailand

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Thailand's king presided over the cremation of former Leicester City owner and duty-free magnate Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha at a Buddhist temple Thursday in a ceremony that brought together the Thai business and political elites.

This handout from King Power taken and released on March 20, 2019 shows staff and players from Leicester City football club posing in front of a portrait of the club's Thai owner and duty-free mogul Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha (back R) during his funeral in Bangkok. 

The 60-year-old Thai founder of duty-free giant King Power died in October in a helicopter crash after watching his beloved football club play.

    His sudden death stunned Thais and football fans who followed his fairytale-like ascent, while also raising questions about the future of his company's near-monopoly over Thailand's duty-free sector.

    His weeklong funeral in November had royal sponsorship for three days and King Maha Vajiralongkorn presided over Thursday's cremation rites at Wat Thepsirin, one of Bangkok's oldest temples.

    Standing on an elevated podium, the king lit the fire for Vichai's crematorium.

A handout photo made available by\ King Power shows Thai Buddhist monks and royal officials walk in a circular procession next to a crematory during a Thai King sponsored cremation ceremony for Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the late Thai Chairman of English Premier League soccer club Leicester City, at Wat Debsirindrawas Ratchaworawiharn Temple in Bangkok, Thailand, 21 March 2019. // EPA-EFE PHOTO

    Before the king's arrival, Vichai's elder son Apichet entered the temple with a shorn head wearing saffron robes -- following the Buddhist tradition of the eldest son being temporarily ordained after the death of a patriarch.

    Leading the rest of the family was youngest son Aiyawatt, better known by his nickname "Top" and the vice chairman of Leicester City, carrying offerings.

    More than 40 players and members of Leicester City football club -- including star striker Jamie Vardy, captain Wes Morgan and new manager Brendan Rodgers -- arrived the day before from England to pay their final respects.

A handout photo made available by\ King Power shows Thai Buddhist monks and royal officials walk in a circular procession next to a crematory during a Thai King sponsored cremation ceremony for Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the late Thai Chairman of English Premier League soccer club Leicester City, at Wat Debsirindrawas Ratchaworawiharn Temple in Bangkok, Thailand, 21 March 2019. // EPA-EFE PHOTO

    Anutin Charnvirakul, leader of the Bhumjaithai Party and a prime ministerial candidate in elections being held on Sunday, stood with Vichai's family, along with former politician-turned-sports mogul Newin Chidchob and national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda.

    The well-connected Vichai was Thailand's fifth wealthiest man, and his four children stand to inherit a shopping empire now worth some $5.2 billion according to Forbes.

    His company's rapid rise from a single downtown Bangkok store to commanding a near monopoly in the country's airports can be attributed more to Vichai's knack for winning -- and keeping -- the favour of Thailand's elite.

    This includes the monarchy, whose links to him were reflected in the name of his company and the former king's act of royally bestowing a surname which translates to "auspicious and prosperous light".

This handout from King Power taken and released on March 21, 2019 shows Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha (centre R), son of Leicester City football club's Thai owner and duty-free mogul Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, his mother Aimon (centre L) and their relatives attending the cremation ceremony of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in Bangkok. // AFP PHOTO

    But in recent weeks, state-owned Airports of Thailand (AoT) is facing intense pressure to break up the monopoly after King Power's hold on it ends in 2020, and a bidding auction is to start this year.

    Following outcry from rivals calling for the concession to be split up among different companies, Thailand's junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha urged AoT to find "a suitable process to be fair".

    On Monday, an AoT official told AFP it would postpone the release of its terms of reference for the bidding, and would "open for more recommendations ...to comply with the government".

    Thailand's Mall Group, shopping empire Central Group -- both backed by billionaires -- are eyeing entry into duty-free while South Korean giant Lotte is also in the hunt.

A handout photo made available by\ King Power shows Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha (C) offering saffron robes to Buddhist monks during a Thai King sponsored cremation ceremony for his late father Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, at Wat Debsirindrawas Ratchaworawiharn Temple in Bangkok, Thailand, 21 March 2019. // EPA-EFE PHOTO

This handout from King Power taken and released on March 20, 2019 shows Leicester City's football club player Jamie Vardy (C) reacting during the funeral of the club's Thai owner and duty-free mogul Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in Bangkok. - Leicester City's chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who was killed when his helicopter crashed and burst into flames in the Premier League side's stadium car park moments after taking off from the pitch on October 27, 2018, will receive a royal cremation in Bangkok on March 21. // AFP PHOTO

This handout from King Power taken and released on March 21, 2019 shows Leicester City football club's Wes Morgan (C) as he and his team attend the cremation ceremony for the club's Thai owner and duty-free mogul Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in Bangkok. - Thailand's king presided over the cremation of former Leicester City owner and duty-free magnate Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha at a Buddhist temple on March 21 in a ceremony that brought together Thailand's business and political elite. // AFP PHOTO

This handout from King Power taken and released on March 21, 2019 shows Leicester City football club's coach Brendan Rodgers (front L) and player Jamie Vardy (C) as they attend the cremation ceremony for the club's Thai owner and duty-free mogul Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in Bangkok. // AFP PHOTO

This handout from King Power taken and released on March 21, 2019 shows the cremation pyre for Leicester City football club's Thai owner and duty-free mogul Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha's cremation at the Wat Thepsirin temple in Bangkok. // AFP PHOTO

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