On January 1st 2016 it will be seven years since the deadly inferno at the Santika club in Ekamai that took the lives of 67 New Year’s revelers and left over 200 others injured.
The exact cause of the fire has never been officially determined with the most likely cause being outdoor fireworks set off inside for the 1000 plus partygoers who were crammed into a club with a capacity of 500 people. A club with only one marked exit at the front of the building that measured just 2.3 meters wide.
The victims died from burns, smoke inhalation, and from being crushed to death in the stampede to get out.
The dead lined up in rows outside the club
Santika had been refused an operating license three years prior to the 2009 New Year tragedy because of safety concerns, however, it was allowed to remain open while its owners appealed that decision.
The Bangkok Post reported at the time Santika was licensed only as a restaurant that was supposed to close at midnight. A Ministry of Justice investigation later discovered the club was officially registered as a private residence and therefore had never received a fire safety inspection.
News reports following the fire stated the club had only one fire extinguisher inside.
Inside Santika the day following the fire
A total of seven people were prosecuted over the fire in cases that slowly worked their way through Thailand’s court system.
Four of those initially prosecuted have been acquitted and another fined.
Two men, the club owner Visuk Setsawat, and Boonchu Laorinath, owner of the Focus Light Sound System Company who were responsible for arranging the special effects and fireworks, were both sentenced to three years’ imprisonment by a criminal court in 2011 which the pair appealed.
Club owner Visuk Setsawat
On October 22nd 2013, the Court of Appeal acquitted both men allowing them to walk free. The court found that the charges in Visuk’s indictment for directly causing death through carelessness were unclear and lacked evidence.
That verdict was overturned last week by the Supreme Court, whose decision cannot be appealed. “The defendant was careless which caused death and injuries from the blaze”, the court said.
A survivor of the Santika fire
So after almost seven years, the owner of Santika club, Visuk Setsawat, is finally behind bars to serve his three year sentence.
A sentence that equates to just over 16 days for every person who died in the blaze. I didn’t do the math for those who survived and have been left scarred for life, both mentally and physically, by those responsible for turning a blind eye, taking shortcuts and putting peoples lives at risk in a bid to fill their pockets.