Don't skimp on pub safety

Don't skimp on pub safety

The charred interior of the Mountain B pub in Sattahip district of Chon Buri on Friday. The illegally operating pub burned down early Friday morning, taking the lives of at least 14 people and injuring 38 others. (Photo: Sawang Boriboon Foundation)
The charred interior of the Mountain B pub in Sattahip district of Chon Buri on Friday. The illegally operating pub burned down early Friday morning, taking the lives of at least 14 people and injuring 38 others. (Photo: Sawang Boriboon Foundation)

Heads are rolling after a deadly fire broke out at a pub in Chon Buri province in the early hours of Friday morning, killing 14 people and injuring at least 36 others.

About 10 hours after the blaze occurred at Mountain B pub in Sattahip, district chief Chatchai Sripoh-orn was transferred to another post by an order from the Department of Administration, which operates under the Interior Ministry.

Yet the Sattahip district administration must shoulder the blame for letting the owner operate a pub despite the venue only having been registered as an eatery with a licence to sell alcoholic beverages.

Also, the operator illegally altered the space by constructing a shell building around the inner entertainment venue. Moreover, the pub was built in an area where such venues are prohibited.

Hopefully, the government will not stop at just enforcing the law against the owner. Officials who are involved in issuing permits must also face a probe and be brought to justice.

The case has drawn comparisons with an even more tragic fire at Santika pub on Ekamai in Bangkok on New Year's eve of 2008 that claimed 66 lives.

What is equally chilling is that we know there are many more similar pubs and entertainment venues like the aforementioned two.

Both cases share similarities. The owners violated building codes by adding more space at will. Both were designed and built with a modicum of respect for safety guidelines.

Moreover, despite Santika pub having five doors, its customers -- 1,000 on the night of the fire -- mostly had to escape through one main exit that was 2.5 metres wide. Patrons at Mountain B fared even worse. Besides the main exit, that venue had two narrow exit doors measuring 80cm in width but both were tightly locked when the fire broke out. It also had no fire exit or fire-prevention system. As such, many people were trapped and lost their lives.

Rescue workers are inside Mountain B pub after the fire was put out in Sattahip district, Chon Buri, on Friday. (Photo: Sawang Boriboon Foundation)

Another key point is that the ceilings and walls of Mountain B were lined with highly flammable acoustic foam to absorb the noise, as it was built illegally in a residential zone. One of the survivors said the blaze was first observed in the roof before it quickly spread through the foam.

The bigger questions are: How many pubs and entertainment venues are using this material, are they aware of the risk involved, and are they providing adequate fire-prevention measures?

These are all huge challenges. What the public wishes to see more than heads rolling are concrete measures to make pubs and entertainment venues safe buildings -- akin to public office buildings that are built with flame-retardant materials in high-risk areas, and have fire-prevention systems and staff who are well-trained about safety and evacuation.

On Friday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha ordered officials to look into the safety measures in place at pubs and entertainment venues countrywide. Hopefully, this is not another flash-in-the-pan response like in the aftermath of the Santika pub inferno.

More fires are guaranteed. But more lives needn't be needlessly lost.

Flames ripped through the extension of the Mountain B pub in Sattahip, killing at least 14 people and injuring 38 others. (Photo: Sawang Boriboon Foundation)

Editorial

Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th



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