Bangkok (AFP) – The owner of a music bar in eastern Thailand where a fire last week killed 15 people and injured more than 36 others was brought to court Monday to hear criminal charges against him.
Pongsiri Banprasong, owner of Mountain Bay bar in Sattahip district of Chonburi province, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of Bangkok, surrendered late Saturday. Police charged the 27-year-old with causing death by negligence and operating an entertainment venue without permission. He could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 200,000 baht ($5,580).
Live bands play regularly on stage at the pub, including when the fire started early Friday morning on the ceiling above them. Police said the place was only licensed to operate as a restaurant.
The site of the fire, which occurred early Friday morning, remained closed Monday as criminal police and building inspectors worked to determine the cause of the fire and whether the pub met building standards.
“I’m sorry. I want to say sorry to the families of the victims,” Pongsiri told reporters from a window behind a police prison truck at Pattaya Court. Pongsiri, whose face was covered with a mask, hat and towel, said he would compensate the victims.
Many of those injured in the fire sustained severe burns that left them in critical condition. Thirteen died at the scene and one more at the hospital on Friday, and the 15th victim, Thanakrit Ninoy, died on Saturday. His sister told local media that Thanakrit went with his wife and friends to the pub to celebrate his birthday. His wife is still in the hospital for treatment.
Bangkok GovernorThailand’s largest city said, Saturday, that the city inspected more than 400 entertainment venues in the city before the fire broke out and found 83 venues that did not comply with safety standards. Chadchart Citypunt told reporters he would order the venues closed if they did not act to solve their problems.
Sixty-six people were killed and more than 200 were injured in a fire that occurred on the January 1, 2009, New Year’s Eve celebration at the Santika nightclub in Bangkok. It appears that this fire was caused by an indoor fireworks display. Poisonous smoke flooded the place and contributed to the death toll as the entire club caught fire.