Malai Sakolviphak – ‘Father’ of Skål Thailand – passes away

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It was with profound shock that we learnt of the passing of Malai Sakolviphak – a Membre d’Honneur and former Skål International (SI) Thailand President, SI Bangkok President and SI Thailand Councillor.

Often referred to as ‘Mr. Skål’, Malai frequently travelled around the world to, almost single handed, promote Thailand to 20,000-plus Skålleagues and senior tourism executives. Messages have been pouring in from around the world – a true measure of the greatness and respect Malai, our wise Thailand Skål father, generated from those he met.

Skål International President Enrique Quesada said, “Malai was an outstanding Skålleague and represented his country, Thailand, with impeccable dedication and wisdom.”

Comments from past presidents include:

Hulya Aslantas (2009-10): “I am very sorry to hear the most unfortunate news about passing away of Khun Malai.  I have known him since many years and worked closely with him also in the council. He was a great ambassador of Skål Thailand and will always be remembered as the person and power behind all the congresses you have hosted. His personality, sense of humour and great wisdom will be remembered for many years by all those who knew him well. We all have lost a great friend.”

Litsa Papathanasi (2006-7): “I was shocked when I heard about the loss of my good friend Malai. We first met in 1995 and, from 1996; we served on the board of the ISC for four years, with Peter Huppert, Jan Sunde and later with Lone Ricks. We remained friends in the years to follow. All that you and the other Skålleagues said about him is true. He was a good, strong guy with a calm face that only wise people have. Always kind and always there for his friends. Although very introverted as a person, with us on the board he became more open as we trusted each other. The work achieved was always done with humour and very good co-operation between us.”

Jan H. Sunde (2005-6): “This was sad news. A great Skålleague has left us. Khun Malai was a great friend. I served not only as councillor together with him but we also were vice presidents of the council for several years together and we met in board meetings. He was a great representative not only for Skål Thailand but also for his country. Khun Malai will be missed. RIP Malai.”

Hon. President Uzi Yalon: “I have known Khun Malai at least 35 years. He was a great and humble person and very knowledgeable in all Skål matters. More than once we discussed Skål issues and always found solutions to matters being discussed. I used to see him a few times each year at different Skål events and always he was radiating a good heart. I was shocked to learn of his passing away. He will be missed by his family, Skål Asia and Skål all over the world.”

Hon. President Max Kingston: “It was with great sorrow I learnt of the passing of my dear friend and dedicated Skålleague, Khun Malai Sakolviphak. I share with you and all fellow Skålleagues, particularly in Thailand, the loss of such a fine Skålleague and dear friend, recognising his dedication and commitment to Skål in Thailand. May he rest in peace with the knowledge of ‘well done faithful servant’.”

Richard Hawkins (1999-2000): “Malai’s contributions to Skål are very considerable. He worked within the international forum to help keep the good ship Skål on a steady course. He did much to help develop and maintain Skål in Asia and indeed he was an Honorary President of Skål Asia. He also did much in the area of Skål Thailand. He never sought the limelight and he was modest about his achievements. His friends will miss him and Skål will miss him. As a trustee of the Florimond Volckaert Fund I note the proposal that donations be made in his name and I think that would be a wonderful thing.”

Trygve Soedring (1992-3): “It was a shock for us all to hear that Khun Malai has passed away. Khun Malai was a true gentleman, a fantastic Skål man and a very good friend. I knew him for more than 30 years and worked very closely with him during the World Skål Congress in Bangkok in 1996 when he was in charge and I had stepped in as congress director only five months before. Khun Malai was very pleasant and co-operative to work with. We will all miss Mr. Skål in Asia. May he rest in peace. On behalf of the Florimond Volckaert Fund and the Trustees I would like to thank you all good Skålleagues in Thailand for contributing to the Fund in Khun Malai’s name. It is highly appreciated.”

From Gerry Perez, President Skål Asia: “I was honoured to have spent time with him in my days as councillor and in the Asia Area Committee. When the Asia Area Committee under President Earl recommended Khun Malai Sakolviphak to be awarded Hon. President of the Area in 2007 in Macau, it was the easiest decision we ever made. A truly great Skålleague and we are going to miss his wise council.”

Earl Wieman IPP Asia Area: “I proposed the honorary presidency for Malai because of his dedication to Skål, his (always quiet) efforts on behalf of the organisation, his ready willingness to help other Skålleagues, his warm friendship, his firm belief in the organisation and the contributions he made to it over so many years in Bangkok, Thailand, Asia, and internationally.”

Robert ‘Bob’ Lee, outgoing President of SI Bangkok, shared the news with Skål members at the recent AGM. He said, “It is with a very heavy heart that I have to inform Skålleagues around the world of the passing of our ‘Skål Thailand Father’ Khun Malai.  This really came as a shock to us all. He was my teacher and Skål mentor and he was a friend to so many.”

Brian Sinclair-Thompson, SI Thailand President, commented, “Khun Malai’s knowledge and experiences within the Skål movement were unmatched. Thailand and Skål are poorer places as a result of his passing.”

Ingo Raueber, Past President of Skål International Pattaya & East Thailand said, “I came to know Khun Malai 11 years ago, and he was my mentor in all aspects concerning Skål. During my 3 years of presidency of the Skål International Club of Pattaya & East Thailand, he never hesitated to render any assistance and advice requested. He will be truly missed by all of us.”

Peter Malhotra, a charter member of the Skål Club of Pattaya and former Vice President said, “I respected him more than you can imagine, for his lifetime of dedication to the Skål movement. He worked harder than anyone I know to promote and boost the travel and tourism industry not only in Thailand, but all over the world. He relentlessly campaigned against all competition in our successful bid to host the Skål World Congress in Pattaya in 2006. I am really sorry to hear of Khun Malai’s passing. Skål and all his friends and family will dearly miss him.”

About Khun Malai Sakolviphak: Born in 1932, Malai started his career by joining Pan American World Airways in 1949 and was later appointed director for Thailand, Laos and Myanmar from 1982-1985. When Pan Am sold its transpacific route he joined United Airlines and served as general manager from 1986-1992.

He then joined the Pacific Leisure Group head office in Bangkok as senior executive director from 1993-2009. Malai was also a former chairman of PATA Thailand chapter and past president of the Airlines Club of Thailand and World Airlines Club Association as well as executive director of the Association of Thai Travel Agents.