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Thailand hotel executives charged in fire

July 16, 1997

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ Two hotel executives have been charged in the deaths of 90 people _ many of them trapped behind locked emergency exits _ in Thailand’s worst hotel fire.

Both men neglected fire safety measures at the Royal Jomtien Resort in the beach city of Pattaya, where the fire broke out Friday, police said.

The hotel lacked an alarm system, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. Firefighters found bodies piled up near fire exit doors that had been locked shut to prevent guests from leaving without paying their bills.

Thavorn Ujjin, managing director of Kiatpol Co. Ltd., which owns the hotel, and company chairman Indra Thamrongwitwatpong, both have been charged with involuntarily causing death and injury, said Maj. Gen. Kongdej Choosri, police commander in the home province of the 8-year-old luxury hotel.

Seven other members of Kiatpol’s executive board have been questioned, but police have not decided whether to arrest any of them, Kongdej said.

Also in custody was a coffee shop supervisor who reportedly opened a gas valve, causing an explosion that led to the fire.

The blaze renewed calls for stricter fire safety regulations. Antiquated laws have left fines for violations so low that owners will pay them daily rather than correct problems.

On Tuesday, the government ordered widespread fire safety inspections and told provincial authorities to report violators.

Update hourly