Supreme Court puts Santika Pub owner in jail

Supreme Court puts Santika Pub owner in jail

Santika pub owner Wisuk Setsawat (left) leaves the courthouse on Oct 22, 2013 after the Appeals Court overturned the lower court's decision convicting him. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarsill)
Santika pub owner Wisuk Setsawat (left) leaves the courthouse on Oct 22, 2013 after the Appeals Court overturned the lower court's decision convicting him. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarsill)

The court battle over responsibility for the Santika Pub inferno that killed 67 people and maimed many others seven years ago has ended with the Supreme Court jailing owner Wisuk Setsawat and ordering two others to pay the victims millions in damages.

The final verdict of the Supreme Court on the pub owner reversed the Appeals Court's ruling on Oct 22, 2013, which acquitted Wisuk, widely known as Sia Khao, of all charges relating to the deaths and injuries in the horrifying fire at the pub at midnight on New Year's Eve, 2008.

In the ruling read by the Criminal Court on Wednesday, the Supreme Court judges said Wisuk had to accept responsibility for negligence as the pub had only one exit at the front which was not enough to handle about 1,000 people when the fire broke out. It sentenced him to the maximum jail sentence of three years.

The Supreme Court upheld the ruling of the Appeals Court which sentenced Boonchu Laoseenart, the authorised director of Focus Light Sound System Co at the time, to three years behind bars and fined the firm 20,000 baht. It also ordered him and the firm to pay the victims a total of 5.12 million baht.

Sia Khao and Boonchu were taken to a prison after the final ruling.

The verdict, which cannot be appealed, ended the case after a court fight that began in the Criminal Court in 2011.

The fire killed 67 people and injured 117 others, 45 of them seriously, in the packed entertainment venue on Ekamai Road celebrating the New Year as a band called Burn, led by singer Sarawut Ariya, was on the stage.

The musician was accused of lighting a firecracker in the pub but the Supreme Court said there was no conclusive evidence to substantiate the accusation.

The pub could handle up to 500 people but about 1,000, including many under 20, were jam-packed inside on that night, according to state prosecutors. 

Wisuk owned White and Brothers (2003) Co which ran Santika. Focus Light Sound System Co was hired to make special effects on that night.

The fireworks, which were designed to be set off outdoors, were lit inside the pub, hitting the ceiling and starting the fire.


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