Police on Wednesday issued arrest warrants against owners of an exploded fireworks warehouse in Narathiwat after they failed to report to police on Tuesday for questioning.
The Saturday explosion in tambon Muno of Sungai Kolok district killed 12 people, injured 121 and further damaged 292 houses.
After the incident, national police chief Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapas instructed Provincial Police Region (PPR) 9 chief Pol Lt Gen Nanthadet Yoinual to provide assistance to victims and expedite the investigation to bring legal action against all relevant individuals, as well as to expand the investigation to other warehouses to prevent such incidents recurring.
Sompong Nakul, 42, and his wife, Piyanuch Peungwirawat, 42, the owners of the warehouse, were summoned to acknowledge charges on Tuesday — including possessing and distributing fireworks without permission, negligence causing deaths, injuries to others and damaging properties, as well as proceeding with construction without permission.
But the couple reportedly left home last Thursday and travelled to Malyasia via Muang Sadao immigration checkpoint in Songkhla. They have not returned to Thailand.
“The national police chief will coordinate with Malaysian police to help arrest them and bring them back to face legal action,” the Royal Thai Police (RTP) spokesman Pol Lt Gen Archayon Kraithong said on Wednesday.
A police source said the couple operated a grocery store as a front to illegally trade and export fireworks to Malaysia. Back in 2016, Mr Sompong was arrested for storing and selling fireworks and other flammable materials without a permit, but prosecutors dropped the case, said the source.
Pol Lt Gen Archayon Kraithong said Pol Gen Damrongsak has instructed PPR 9 to find out how the fireworks warehouse was allowed to be situated in a community area.
PPR 9 has also formed a panel to investigate whether negligent police officers or state officials were involved. The report will be submitted to RTP.
Narathiwat Police chief Pol Maj Gen Anurut Im-arb has ordered a transfer of four senior officers of Muno Station to inactive posts at Narathiwat Provincial Police Operation Centre, pending an investigation. Bhumjaithai Party secretary-general Saksayam Chidchob said he will submit an urgent motion for fireworks storage to the parliamentary meeting on Thursday.