BANGKOK (AP) — The owner of a music pub in eastern Thailand where a fire last week killed 15 people and injured more than three dozen was brought to court Monday to face criminal charges.
Pongsiri Panprasong, owner of the Mountain B pub in Chonburi province’s Sattahip district, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of Bangkok, surrendered late Saturday. The police charged the 27-year-old with causing death by negligence and operating an entertainment venue without a license. He could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 200,000 baht ($5,580).
Live bands played regularly on a stage at the pub, even as the fire broke out early on Friday morning on the ceiling above them. Police said the place was only licensed to operate as a restaurant.
The scene of the fire, which broke out in the early hours of Friday morning, remained sealed off on Monday as forensic 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 apologize to the families of the victims,” Pongsiri told reporters through a window in the back of a police prison van at the Pattaya courthouse. Pongsiri, whose face was hidden by a mask, hat and towel, he said he would compensate the victims.
Many of those injured in the fire suffered severe burns that left them in critical condition. Thirteen died at the scene, another in hospital on Friday and the 15th victim, Thanakrit Neenoi, died on Saturday. His sister told local media that Thanakrit went to the pub with his wife and friends to celebrate his birthday. His wife remains in hospital for treatment.
The governor of Bangkok, Thailand’s largest city, said on Saturday that the city had inspected more than 400 entertainment venues in the city before the fire and found 83 places that did not comply with safety standards. Chadchart Sittipunt told reporters that the venues would be ordered closed if they did not act to fix their problems.
Sixty-six people were killed and more than 200 injured in a fire during a New Year’s Eve celebration on January 1, 2009 at the Santika nightclub in Bangkok. That blaze was apparently sparked by an indoor fireworks display. Toxic smoke filled the venue and added to the death toll as the entire club caught fire.