Wednesday October 3, 2012
Thai nightclub owner charged over deadly blaze
BANGKOK: Thai police have charged a nightclub owner with gross negligence over a fire that killed four people, including two foreigners, on the holiday island of Phuket, an official said Wednesday.
If convicted, Tiger Group owner Piya Isramalai faces up to 10 years in prison for the pre-dawn blaze that swept through the Tiger Discotheque on August 17 on the southern island, a magnet for international tourists.
Piya is also accused of operating a business outside legal opening hours.
"He was officially charged last week after he surrendered to police," said Phuket police investigator Lieutenant Colonel Kittipong Klaikaeo.
He said the case file would soon be submitted to prosecutors.
A British and a French tourist, as well as two Thai women, died in the fire, which is believed to have spread rapidly because flammable materials were used in the construction and decoration of the nightclub.
Eleven other people were injured during the incident, which occurred during a thunderstorm.
Police believe an electrical malfunction caused the blaze, Kittipong said.
The fire was another blow to Thailand's image as the "Land of Smiles" that has been tarnished in recent years by deadly political unrest, devastating floods, and concerns about violent crimes against foreigners.
Safety standards in the kingdom are generally poor and deaths involving tourists are common.
Last year the owner of a Bangkok nightclub where more than 60 people died in a 2009 blaze was sentenced to three years in prison for gross negligence. - AFP