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Tiger Disco: date set for trial over lethal Phuket fire

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Tiger Disco: date set for trial over lethal Phuket fire | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: More than than a year after a fatal blaze killed four people at Patong’s famous Tiger Disco nightclub on August 17 last year, the nightclub’s operators will be called to Phuket Court to enter a plea to charges of negligence causing death.

“Tiger Group CEO Piya Isaramalai and Sara Entertainment Co Ltd each face a charge under Section 291 of the Thai Criminal Code: Causing Death through Negligence. They also face charges of causing physical and mental injury and trading after hours,” Phuket Chief Public Prosecutor Chiengsean Panhya confirmed to the Phuket Gazette this week.

“The suspects were formally charged on July 10. The next court appearance will be on September 2,” Mr Chiengsean said.

On that day, the defendants will be called upon to enter a plea, he added.

“They will be also asked to explain what evidence they have to support their plea,” Mr Chiengsean explained.

Although the trial is to be held in Phuket, the case had to be approved by the Public Prosecutor’s regional head office in Surat Thani to present in court, he added.

The long-awaited trial comes after a series of delays in securing evidence, despite Thailand’s leading forensic police being dispatched from Bangkok to investigate the fire (story here).

It also comes after a damning report by the Building Society Inspectors and Officers Association (BSA) and the Association of Siamese Architects (ASA), which cited failure by nightclub management to adhere to multiple fire-safety regulations.

The disco had improper placement of fire extinguishers and faulty emergency-exit ladders, and used a highly-flammable foam for wall and ceiling decorations, said the report (story here).

Some of the emergency-exit ladders were found to be too short to reach the ground, which matches witness reports of individuals being forced to jump from the burning building.

The report also supported evidence that the decorations on the ceilings and walls of the building were made of highly flammable expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam, which is now illegal to use inside buildings.

The forensics report, months in coming, identified the cause of the fire as an electrical short circuit under the ceiling at the front of the building, Maj Gen Chonasit Wattanavrangkul, who was Provincial Police Commander at the time, confirmed with Patong Police.

“The spark set alight the ceiling and the wall, both of which were coated with highly flammable EPS foam,” he explained.

The popular night venue erupted into flames just before 4am, while hundreds of patrons were still inside (story here).

British tourist Michael Tzouvanni, 24, French tourist Emmanuel Becard, 30, and Thai nationals Duangporn Budklor, 34, and Nipaphat Sudtasorn, 36, all died in the inferno.

Days later, scores of people from Patong’s entertainment industry turned out at a memorial event to mourn those lost to the fire (story here).

The legal counsel for Tiger Discotheque, Thamrongsak Boonrak, confirmed this week that Tiger Group CEO Piya Isaramalai posted bail on July 10.

“Mr Piya was allowed to post bail by the court on that day. We bailed him out with cash,” he said.

“It does not matter how much we paid to post bail. He is not going anywhere,” he added.

Mr Thamrongsak was confident in successfully defending the manslaughter charges, which carry a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to 20,000 baht.

“We are not afraid to fight the charges because we are innocent. It was an accident,” he assured.

“We have all the evidence we need to prove that it was a lightning strike that night. It was not our fault at all,” he said.

Atipong Thongyon, chief of the PEA Patong office, on August 18 – the day after the fire – refuted allegations that the blaze was caused by an exploding transformer (story here).

“We also have evidence to prove that the Patong office of the Provincial Electricity Authority is hiding from us,” Mr Thamrongsak alleged.

“They should check their power cables and poles for public safety. The electrical wires are all old; they better check and make it safe,” he said.

— Chutharat Plerin

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Phuket

4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket

Maya Taylor

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4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket | The Thaiger
Mai Khao beach in north Phuket. PHOTO: Booking.com

Phuket officials are setting aside around 4 billion baht to transform medical tourism in the southern province of Phuket, by developing a state-of-the-art treatment hub in the north of the island. The Bangkok Post reports that the Treasury department is planning to give the Public Health Ministry permission to use 141 rai of government land in the sub-district of Mai Khao, close to Phuket International Airport. It’s not the first time the proposal has come to light.

The concept is gathering support as Phuket battles to diversify its attraction beyond a tropical holiday island.

The aim is to develop Phuket as a world-class health and wellness destination, with facilities that will attract medical tourists from all over the world, as well as providing a high standard of treatment to the local population. It’s understood the facility will provide a full range of health services, including long-term care, and hospice and rehabilitation services.

The island already has a well-developed medical tourism market, but has been based around local hospitals and clinics linking up with foreign marketing companies in the past. “The International Medical and Public Health Service” has been conceived to create more long term financial security and diversification, and value-added tourism in Phuket, as the island has taken a heavy financial hit over the past 7 months.

4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Phuket Andaman News

The plan was first suggested in 2017, by then governor, Noraphat Plodthong and confirmed by the director of Phuket’s Vachira Hospital, Dr. Chalermpong Sukontapol, in July. At that stage, the estimated budget was 3-4 billion baht. The director-general of the Treasury department, Yuthana Yimkarun, says the plot is being offered to the Health Ministry for free. The land is thought be worth around 1 billion baht.

Yuthana says the ministry will manage investment, with approximately 2 billion baht required for the first stage of the project. Construction of the facility is expected to be completed over 2 years.

Meanwhile, it’s understood that unused government land that is currently managed by various government agencies may be moved under the remit of central government, with a view to increasing its worth. According to the Bangkok Post report, just 4% of government land is directly managed by the Treasury. The other 96% is controlled by various government agencies. Yuthana says the plan is to increase the percentage of state-owned land under the Treasury’s management to 10% within 2 years.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

“Open the borders, safely”, Bill Heinecke, Minor International interview – VIDEO

The Thaiger

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“Open the borders, safely”, Bill Heinecke, Minor International interview – VIDEO | The Thaiger

Bill Heinecke speaks to Bill Barnett. The two heavy-hitters of Thailand’s hotel and hospitality sector, mull over the current Covid situation and the reopening of Thailand’s borders to some form of tourism. Bill Heinecke is the Chairman and Founder of Minor International.

Bill Barnett is the Managing Director of c9hotelworks.com

Now the Thai government has approved the special long-term tourist visa scheme (STV), hoteliers are remaining skeptical about reopening due to the lack of clarity in the recent announcement, which will reportedly take effect next month. The president of the Thai Hotels Association’s southern chapter says more hoteliers will consider reopening if the government gives further information about the plan in terms of prospective markets, arrival dates, origin countries, and flights.

Such details would allow hotels to prepare themselves ahead of time to offer services as alternative state quarantine premises as at least 60 hotels in Phuket are awaiting approval to operate such facilities.

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Bangkok

Now they’re coming… Special Tourist Visa flight set for Tuesday – Tourism and Sports Minister

Caitlin Ashworth

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Now they’re coming… Special Tourist Visa flight set for Tuesday – Tourism and Sports Minister | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Unsplash: Suhyeon Choi

After much confusion and a few apparent ‘misunderstandings’, Chinese tourists on the Special Tourist Visa will actually arrive on October 20 and 26. At least that’s what Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn says, according to the Bangkok Post. The first group is said to arrive 4 days from now in Bangkok (if they actually applied for the visa this time).

Reports circulated for weeks about a flight of 120 to 150 tourists set to arrive in Phuket on October 8 from Guangzhou, China. An announcement was made shortly after the flight was due to arrive with Tourism Authority Governor Yuthasak Supasorn saying “administrative issues” had caused the delay.

It was later reported that no one from Guangzhou had actually applied for the visa and it was all just a misunderstanding after the Tourism Authority of Thailand reportedly passed off a list of those “interested” in the visa as actual applications.

This time, the Post is reporting the first group of 120 tourists from Guangzhou will arrive at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport on Tuesday. Another group of 120 tourists, also from Guangzhou, will arrive on October 26, but the Post didn’t say where that flight will land.

It’s apparently the same group that was planned to arrive in Phuket on October 8, but the minister claims the trip was postponed due to the Vegetarian Festival which is planned to run until October 25. Both the Phuket governor and National Security Council secretary general had claimed the festival was the reason for the delayed flight and was intended to ease fears of Covid-19 for the festival-goers coming in from the rest of Thailand.

Even though the new long stay tourist visa is good for 90 days, and can be renewed twice, the tourists will only stay in the country for 30 days, with 14 of those days in quarantine. Phiphat says the Tourism Authority of Thailand will find activities to keep the tourists occupied while in quarantine.

The visitors will be the first international tourists after a 6 month ban to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Thai officials have been discussing plans for months about how to safely reopen borders to revive the country’s economy which is heavily driven by the tourism industry. Officals are now talking about cutting down the mandatory time for quarantine from 14 days to 7 days to help entice people to visit.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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