The funeral of Thai billionaire and Leicester City Football Club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, killed in a helicopter crash a week ago, got underway at a Bangkok temple on Saturday.
The funeral began 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.
The incident occurred when his helicopter crashed outside the King Power Stadium in the English city of Leicester after an English Premier League match.
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.
It was followed by recitation ceremonies which will last for seven days.
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, was among mourners.
He told reporters that the international football 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,” Senamuang said.
Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy and his team mates will travel to Thailand for the funeral after Saturday’s English Premier League match against Cardiff City.
Vichai, who bought Leicester City in 2010, was adored by fans.
That was after the club stunned the football world by beating odds of 5,000/1 to win the English Premier League title in 2016 in what amounted to a sporting fairy tale.
Vichai 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.
The Thai tycoon’s body arrived in Bangkok on Friday.
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.
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.
King Power currently controls more than 90 percent of Thailand’s duty-free market, being a sole operator with concessions in all major airports in the country until 2020.