Death disco was operating beyond normal hours – but 'legal'

From Andrew Drummond, Bangkok August 17 2012

A fire in a discotheque on the Thai holiday island of Phuket in which four revelers were burned to death beyond recognition took place nearly two hours after the club should have been legally closed.

Today as officials in Patong on the holiday island of Phuket counted the cost of this morning’s blaze, the club’s legal manager said that everything else was legal and management would not shirk their responsibilities.

At least two of the four fatalities are believed to be foreign tourists.


Eleven others, including four French tourists are seriously injured suffering burns and smoke inhalation in the worst disco fire since the Santika Club in Bangkok burned down on New Year’s morning 2009 with 60 fatalities.

French casualty

This morning’s fire was being initially blamed on a lightning strike. Thamrongsak Boonrak, Legal Counsel for Tiger Discotheque said: “I have been told that lightning struck a transformer.

“The power shut down and came back on three times before staff heard an explosion. At first they thought it was a bomb.”

“People panicked and ran. Then a fire broke out and people started choking on the smoke. People stampeded for the exits, trampling one another as they ran for the doors,” he told the Phuket Gazette.

“The club is insured. Compensation will be paid in full for the people who were injured and the families of those who died in this tragedy. Everything about the club is legal.”

Some Thai revelers who got out stayed to watch the rescue services

The club was however operating illegally by staying open beyond the official closing hour of 2 am. But that is not unusual in Phuket.  Police turn a blind eye to local laws and accept payments for the service.

Moreover Thai laws are relaxed to cater for foreigners who tend to want to party much longer.  Mr. Boonsak had his own explanation for the club remaining open.

“Heavy rain started to fall at about 1am, the time we usually close. That’s why people did not want to leave the club.

“It was still packed at 4 am when the fire broke out.” he said.

The Tiger Disco is part of a controversial consortium which runs hotels, clubs and a Thai boxing stadium on Phuket, owned by a powerful local family. The group has been accused of also running illegal underground gambling casinos.

23 thoughts on “Death disco was operating beyond normal hours – but 'legal'

  1. Very sad news indeed. My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families.
    However, I may be wrong but I very much doubt it was a lightning strike….. unless their system was substandard.


  3. Yes Andrew, how true.
    Well, I've been involved in electrical engineering for 30 years, so I'm quite sure the reason given is a cover up.

  4. There's at least one farang eye-witness report stating that it was a lightning strike which hit powerlines outside, so it could have been that. Same accidents that happen elsewhere will happen in Thailand too.

  5. AD You said, " Police turn a blind eye to local laws and accept payments for the service." and also, " The Tiger Disco is part of a controversial consortium which runs hotels, clubs and a Thai boxing stadium on Phuket, owned by a powerful local family. The group has been accused of also running illegal underground gambling casinos."

    Please be careful Andrew, its not safe saying these things.

    This is very sad news not just for the victims of the fire but also for tourism in Phuket, another nail in their coffin.

  6. Wise words God….
    There's a bar just opposite Tiger, the "hostesses" dress in school girls outfits…I'm not sure if anybody is familiar with it…..
    They once charged me 25,000 Baht for a couple of hours drinking…..what could I do??? I paid up and never went back…..Yes very dangerous.

  7. I seem to remember you covered a story regarding an English chap, his Thai wife and their wife swapping party exploits……
    Mmmmmm, very interesting Andrew, I'm on my way down from the village……

  8. Nope that was not me but if you give me the link! I was not actually offering the wife, but she'd be happy to serve you a drink in her uniform for 25000 baht – all to a good cause. That was a steep bill are you sure you do not want 25 other offences to be taken into consideration? 🙂

  9. Nothing will be done, no lessons will be learned and no one will be prosecuted except spuriously and without resolution.
    There is no effective rule of law and no one gives a damn unless money is at stake.
    As ever, caveat emptor and,certainly,remember every night club in Thailand is a potential death trap, as indeed is every long distance bus trip.
    The notion that a lightning strike was to blame is quite feasible. Thailand is in many respects a third world country and this is perhaps best evidenced by the practice whereby power cables are strewn along every road in every village,town and city where they sag in spaghetti confusion between poles of irregular height and distance.In a climate where monsoon winds come out of nowhere it is inevitable that arcing and short circuits occur regularly with incendiary consequences.
    In Bangkok alone just count the number of Skytrain stations where riding up the escalators bring you within touching distance of high voltage cables.
    (Edited. Just toned down a wee bit)

  10. No, I'm not familiar with any bars in Phuket, last time I was in Phuket was 1990 and NO I would never go back. BUT BUT BUT seems like a nice bar if you have 25,000.B to spare. Don't go to AD place he is err not a good drunk,has been know to fall down stairs. "So I'm Told"

  11. SWIM (someone who isn’t me) was in Patong when this went down. He awoke at 4am as the power where he was staying went out and he awoke sensing something bad was either going to happen or had happened. SWIM spoke to the manageress of where he was staying at first light. She told SWIM the transformer had blown and it was the 5th time it had happened this year. SWIM has also met the woman who claims to own Tiger and Bangla boxing. She is an elderly Chinese woman who sits all day in a nearby beauty salon she also owns. SWIM said she was as mean as cat shit. SWIM left on the morning bus to return to Nakhon Sri Thammarat which is the place he met an elderly Chinese man a number of years ago whilst having a sauna at a local hotel. This man told SWIM he was a judge and his sister owned the Tiger Group in Phuket. SWIM also spoke to the owner of where he was staying, a man who was born and bred in Patong. His family own a number of resorts. He told SWIM the Patong election was already bought and paid for and everything would continue as before. He also told SWIM if stealing land was an Olympic sport, a certain Patong official would win the Gold medal every four years without failure.

  12. Just how stupid do the locals take 'outsiders' to really be? We all know that the disco's don't really start to fill up till 2pm when all the bars are 'supposed to close! Here we have the 'spokesman' saying the transformer exploded at 2am and the witnesses all reporting at around 4am.
    Lightning strking a transformer should not cause it to explode! These transformers are normally well grounded with an earth strap, not a twisted core or woven cable but a 'solid metal' (Copper?)strap! Had that been removed? The 2am discos have become a real disturbance to many holiday makers in Thailand. At both Koh Samet and Koh Chang islands, the discos crank up at about 11pm and contnue to 2am plus! Just as tourists are sleeping well the disco beat destroys the nighly rest!Try and complain and you run the risk of the local mafia taking action against you!Thailand never changes, how maany more instances like his will we be reading about?I'm sure Pattay is due some disaster in the near future!
    My condolences to all the families affected by this preventable tradegy!

  13. Sir Lance! – You are very correct! Authorities think that people are stupid – as so few speak up about the facts!

    The fact, which everyone knows but few talk about, is that the police and our authorities deserve most-if not all-blame!

    Fact 1: Authorities know everything they want to know in Thailand. Including which place stays open beyond allowed time including which business engage in illegal activities.

    Fact 2: Authorities makes money of every business not following the law (and others as well), so there is not will to enforce the law. Actually some businesses are ‘offered’ to say open longer ‘if’ they donate a little money….

    Fact 3: Building inspection does not exist or is done during lunch with a bottle of JW-BL.

    Fact 4: There is no ‘mafia’ in Thailand which operated without the protection and blessing of authorities which is often dress in brown clothing!

    Fact 5: Having authorities to investigate all possible wrongdoing from opening-hours, building permits, fire-exits, decoration and insulation (polystyrene) is like having the fox being asked to watch the chicken (and nobody counts the chicken)

    Fact 6: Using polystyrene to cover any public restaurant, hotel, bar, discotheque for decoration purpose is irresponsible, – and in some countries it might be even criminal I guess.

  14. The word i've had from Patong is that the transformer and or power supply in that immediate area has recently had 'issues'. It's been dropping out several times?
    My calculated guess is 'overloading the transformer' That is extremely dangerous as the oil inside (dielectric medium) used for insulation and cooling becomes hot and could 'breakdown'.
    When it does 'breakdown certain gases are formed,methane,ethane,ethylene and acetylene!
    —By the way even small amounts of these gases will go bang when mixed with some oxygen and given an added spark Boom!

    Watch this space!

  15. I also got the impression things were not right with the power supply when I spoke to the manageress where I was staying. If a few transformers blew all at the same time it could be a quality issue. It is not unknown for officials to price jobs with high level equipment and then substitute it with cheaper stuff and skim the difference. I had a Thai friend who worked at Suvarnaphum years ago as an engineer. He quit in disgust at what went on there. He said for every 1000 baht the Government spent he estimated 700 was syphoned off with dodgy deals, bid rigging and price ramping of materials etc. He said he didn't want it on his conscious if there was a disaster there. I'm really surprised there hasn't been a building collapse on Phuket given the slope some of these places in Phuket are built on. It breaks my heart to see people like that poor English guy looking for his brother. Accidents do happen but this is avoidable if proper emergency exits are built. Deafening silence from the mayor and his son about this as well.

  16. Sir Lance
    The transformer doesn’t necessarily have to be oil filled. It’s obviously down to application, type, age, voltage and size. My guess is it wasn’t but as I’ve said I could be wrong. If it was on oil filled transformer then there should have been a “breather system” into the transformer enclosure. To vent excess pressures.
    I just can see how the location of a transformer even with a lightening strike could cause a fire. Again it comes back to my previous comment about the integrity of the system. For the transformer to have caused a fire in the nightclub it would have had to have been in the building….but that’s not really possible as the transformer (if it was the supply transformer) would have been out of the premises. If it was inside the premises then how did the lightning strike the transformer? Also there should be protection against such strikes, lightening rods, ACB’s, MCCB’s, quick rupturing fuse protection, earthing systems.
    As for the problems with “dropping out” of the distribution system. Well, I’m up in Isaan and we have 4 or more power interruptions per day, so many in fact it’s causing damage to all my electrical and electronic equipment. I believe this id due to the antiquated distribution system (not being able to synchronise one set of distribution lines to another) and I dare say the lack lustre performance of their engineers.
    Again, as I’ve previously commented I may be wrong, but the whole explanation to somebody who’s been involved in electrical engineering for 30 years just doesn’t sound feasible.

  17. Right on Ally!
    You are having issues in 'remote' Isan with power so consider the the loading in 'built up Patong'? Everything is lit up in Soi Bangla,(sic) huge neon signage, plus the air con systems, local feeds to hotels!If they have power outages then any transformer will suffer certain 'stress'from being loaded to unloaded in presumably rapid timelines! this resultant 'squeeze' could affect any gas buildup and even possibly vent through any breather that may be present.
    I agree wih you I don't belive it to be the transformer!It's just strange that the blaze is reported to have started in the ceiling / roof!
    Thing is regardless,a bit of 'clamp down' talk this week, then business as usual TIT!

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