No Sprinklers and Illegal Modifications Cause of Grand Park Avenue Hotel Fire?

A tourist being rescued from the Grand Park Avenue Hotel fire in Bangkok this week


Like I said yesterday, fire safety in most buildings in Thailand simply doesn’t exist. So, there’s never any surprise when a major fire in a Bangkok high-rise burns out of control, which has happened twice in the last week. In the latest fire at the Grand Park Avenue Hotel in downtown Bangkok, fire officials are already saying illegal modifications at the hotel and no sprinkler systems are probably the reason the fire spread so fast. A 30-year-old Russian tourist died in the fire and more than 20 other tourists were injured.

Bangkok Deputy Governor Teerachon Manomaiphibul, after an initial look at the banquet room at the Grand Park Avenue Hotel where the blaze started, said the room looks like it had been created from what should have been a parking garage, and no sprinkler system had been installed in it.

That this happened in 1994 when the hotel applied for a modification permit, and that no building safety inspectors had ever pointed out the dangers shows the absolutely uselessness of Thailand’s building safety inspection system. It’s a joke at best, and bloody dangerous at worst. Then again, it’s all based on kickbacks and tea money.That’s what happens in a Third World country (which Thailand technically isn’t but, in all that matters, it still should be rated as such).

Of course, the response to this week’s Grand Park Avenue Hotel fire is as useless as they always are. Bangkok Deputy Governor Mr. Teerachon says 50 major buildings in Bangkok will be targeted for inspections to see if they are up to safety codes and, if not, the owners will have until September to fix the problems or face imprisonment and a fine.

That a fine or imprisonment will never happen is known by just about everyone in Thailand. Kickbacks and tea money will come into play again, it always does, and these violations too will slide.

Besides, where there are literally tens of thousands of buildings in Bangkok that are nowhere near up to fire safety code, what possible use is going after 50 of them?

Just you wait and see. There’ll be another major fire in a few weeks or a few months in Bangkok, there always is, and then this hoopla of promising to solve the problem and doing nothing will start all over again.

As can be seen from the Santika nightclub fire on New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day 2009, where 65 young Thais and one Singaporean died and another 222 were badly injured, Thai safety officials have learnt nothing from it, as the same fire safety violations the owners of Santika committed (one of whom was a senior police officer)continue in millions of buildings all over Thailand. And they always will.