The collapse of a fabric roof at Indoor Stadium Huamark has stoked fears about the safety of operating in public buildings.
Fortunately, the incident occurred 15 minutes before the start of the 2023 Women's U25 Wheelchair Basketball World Championship, which opened that day. One dare not imagine what would have transpired if the roof had caved in a quarter of an hour later.
Lest we forget, this is not the first time one of our public buildings -- especially a local landmark like the sphere-shaped Indoor Stadium Huamark -- has shown signs of structural problems and public safety issues.
Over a decade ago, a flood-draining issue on the same roof caused an avalanche of water to cascade down onto the seating area below.
The latest problem to strike the stadium reflects a larger concern. As climate change makes the weather more fierce and unpredictable, society has seen more reports of buildings and infrastructure, including airport roofs and bridges, that have fallen into a state of disrepair.
That same week, a concrete bridge (Wang Kham) in Kamphaeng Phet broke in two after it was hit by the run-off from the Ping River. And in April last year, the roof of Don Mueang airport's new service hall for tour groups collapsed in the wake of a thunderstorm.
Needless to say, this has become something of a pattern during the rainy season, when it is also fairly commonplace to see billboards partially collapsing or tipping over on public roads.
These incidents beg the question, are buildings strong enough to withstand fierce weather? Are they built and designed to cope with climate resilience -- a relatively new concept when applied to infrastructure that focuses on adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change?
Previous natural disasters have already taught us that our public infrastructure is not only insufficient but potentially hazardous. One glaring example of this came during the epic floods in 2011 when highways in flood-hit zones -- especially in Ang Thong and Ayutthaya provinces -- blocked natural flood-draining efforts and caused the water to get trapped as these routes were built without factoring nature and ecology into their design.
To shore up the safety of such infrastructure, engineering experts like Amorn Pimanmas, president of the Thai Structural Engineers' Association (TSA), asked the government last year to inspect other structures built before 2007, as well as large roadside billboards to ensure they are up to standard.
National and local governments, particularly the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), must follow these recommendations and launch safety inspections as soon as possible.
Mana Nimitmongkol, secretary-general of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT), issued a warning two years ago stating that 23% of more than 1,700 large billboards in the capital were illegal.
Apart from the fact they don't contribute any tax revenue to benefit the country, these illicit billboards are a threat to roads and public safety.
The government must revise the laws on buildings and defer to designs based on climate-change resilience in their building codes and town plans.
It must also consider a national office for public safety monitoring. Taking no action shows signs of gross inefficiency. Apparently, our inert policymakers and government are both part of the problem.