CASE CLOSED – No Charges or Accountability Over Fire that Killed 17 Girls in Chiang Rai
CHIANG RAI – Chiang Rai police chief Thanayin Thepraksa and Pol Maj Gen Sant Sukwaj, commander of the 5th Police Forensic Science Centre announced Thursday that police investigators and the Region 5 Forensics Center concluded their investigation into the fire that killed 17 children at Pitakkiat Wittaya School and that no charges were forthcoming.
Chief Thanayin Thepraksa said the fire was an incident beyond any reasonable prevention despite no smoke detectors or fire alarms in the dormitory, and no adult staff present when the fire broke out.
None of the directors or staff of Pitakkiat Wittaya School dormitory , will not be charged with any crime, for the fire that killed 17 innocent children, who mostly came from impoverished hill tribe families.
In the immediate aftermath of the fire, police urged patience and were slow to release any findings. Ultimately, the fire was blamed on a light bulb melting out of its socket and igniting clothing; a theory dismissed as improbable by engineers the Khaosod reported.
When questioned about the absence of basic safety equipment such as smoke detectors and alarms, Maj. Gen. Thanayin said it didn’t matter.
“That has nothing to do with it. That has nothing to do with it,” he said. “It’s not related. In terms of a criminal investigation, it’s over.”
Nattapol Singhtuen, an activist with a children’s welfare foundation that has been assisting the families, said parents raised the issue again at Monday’s meeting, where Thanayin told them police were dropping the matter.
“The families had many questions, such as what exactly happened on the night of the fire, whether the light was on at the time, because if it was off, how could the light bulb overheat?” Nattapol said. “The villagers feel that the root cause is still unresolved.”
According to Nattapol, reporters were not allowed into the meeting because police commanders said they wanted to explain things and “have a direct conversation” with victims’ families first before going public with the news.
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