83 city pubs closed as fire toll hits 15

83 city pubs closed as fire toll hits 15

Safety standards not up to par

City Hall has temporarily closed 83 out of 400 pubs in Bangkok found to have low safety standards in the wake of Friday's inferno at the Mountain B pub in Chon Buri's Sattahip that killed 15 people and injured 38.

The survey on which the closures were based was carried out after a recent pub fire in the Silom area, city governor Chadchart Sittipunt said on Saturday.

Many had failed to ensure their fire exists were clearly visible, he said.

Most pub-goers couldn't tell which pubs met safety standards so the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration together with city police had conducted the inspection, he said.

The Ministry of Interior, meanwhile, has sent an urgent letter to provincial administrations ordering them to carry out regular inspections of pubs and related businesses and report back on a monthly basis.

Suttipong Juljarern, permanent secretary for interior, said provincial administrative authorities are responsible for inspecting and ensuring that entertainment businesses comply with the law.

Officials who fail to follow the order may end up facing not only disciplinary action but also criminal action, he said.

Pub inferno toll rises to 15

Thanakrit Ninoi, 36, a severely injured victim of the Sattahip pub fire, died on Saturday, bringing the death toll to 15. His younger sister Nittaya and Thankakrit's wife went to Mountain B with more than 10 friends to celebrate his birthday.

They were seated right in front the pub's live-music stage when the blaze broke out. On Friday two of Thanakrit's friends, Surakan Ruangrit, 35, and Suthep Monkhonkaeo, 33, were confirmed dead.

The fire dealt the family a huge blow as Thanakrit's wife is now in a coma from injuries sustained at the pub. Their two daughters are very young and dependent on their parents, Ms Nittaya said.

Sattahip municipality on Saturday issued a letter summoning Pongsiri Panprasong, 28, who is identified variously as the owner and manager of the pub, to acknowledge a municipality charge of unauthorised modification of a public building.

Narong Bunchanchoet, mayor of Sattahip municipality, said Mountain B had been granted permission in 2018 to operate as an open-air restaurant, not a pub. Complaints had been received by the municipality over noise, prompting an inspection, he said.

Last night Mr Pongsiri was also brought in for questioning by police after a court issued a warrant against him.

Five senior police transferred

Pol Maj Gen Atthasit Kitchahan, chief of Chon Buri provincial police, on Friday night signed an order transferring five senior police from active duty while a committee investigates their role in allowing Mountain B to operate without the correct licences.

They are Pol Col Wutthiphong Somchai, superintendent of Phlu Ta Luang police station; Pol Lt Col Somsak Ruying; Pol Lt Col Towong Saklunwong, his two deputies; Pol Maj Somya Chusukphonyiam, the station's chief investigator; and Pol Maj Yutthana Songkrasan, its head of crime investigation and suppression.

Earlier, Pol Col Korawat Hanpradit, deputy Chon Buri provincial police chief, said a warrant has been issued against the owner, identified in the warrant as Mr Pongsiri. However, the exact identity of the owner remains unclear, with one rumour suggesting a woman known only as Fern had fled during the fire while another implicated two influential local figures.

Meanwhile, inspectors examining the wreckage on Saturday said the space was too small to take a large number of guests and contravened building control laws. More than 100 people were inside the pub at the time of the fire.

Mountain B had no insurance, said Suttipol Taweechaikarn, secretary-general of the Office of the Insurance Commission. Phakkhathon Thianchai, Chon Buri governor, said a centre would offer preliminary help to victims of the fire and their families.

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