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Tuesday, 6 January 2009

All Fired Up...

Photo credit @ The Sun

Most of you will have seen or heard about the fire that engulfed a nightclub called Santika in Bangkok over the new year. Since then there have been conflicting reports about what exactly happened that night and in particular how the fire started. One interesting individual even had the gall to suggest that the fire was largely responsible because of the drinkers having alcohol on their tables. Here's my reply to that individual which was printed in the Bangkok Post (see above for the link).

Dear sir,

thanks for your interesting article. By the tenor of your comments, one assumes you are one of the shareholders of White & Co right? The owners of Santika? I think as you have expressly alligned yourself with the owners this looks remarkably like a damage limitation exercise so nobody is going to take you seriously till you make clear your stake in all of this.

I'm afraid I find your presentation of the events of that night embarrassingly inaccurate. Exploding whisky bottles? As the main cause of injuries? You also said that there are three exits which is simply not true. To blame the patrons of the club for doing what all drinkers do (drink alcohol) is quite reprehensible, too. Are they supposed to be responsible for their own safety too while they are drinking there? Isn't that the responsibility of the management? Like Plato asks in 'The Republic' - 'Who will guard the guardians?'

For me the main cause of this tragedy is the lack of a sprinkler system, lack of emergency training for staff, poor coordination of the emergency services, overcrowding, and inflammable furnishings inside. (And yes, as you rightly mentioned yourself, people standing by taking pics that they could sell when they could have been helping people escape.)

Photo credit @ Herald Sun

It reminds me of what the accident investigators often say when a plane goes down e.g. that it was not one 'single event' to blame, but a series of tandem events that all happened together resulting in the final calamity e.g. the plane coming down.

However, in this case it is quite different in that those who knew about all the potential (probable?) problems: the lack of insurance, sprinklers, fire exits etc., had a duty to fix them, but for 4 years stood by and did nothing. As the great statesman and orator Edmund Burke is purported to have said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to stand by and do nothing". That is a completely different ball game and for me makes them utterly culpable, not just in the eyes of the law, but also culpable morally and economically e.g. for compensation purposes.

I know it won't happen till I see pigs flying across Siam BTS station, but those people should all go to a police station hand themselves in, raise their right hands and say collectively, like a Baptist choir - Mea culpa' (we are responsible for this tragedy!)

27/01/2009 - An update on this story:

It now turns out that the building was never inspected after a high ranking Thai policeman became an investor. Read the full story here -

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