Parents Losing Patience with Investigators of School Fire that Killed 17 Students
CHIANG RAI – It has now been more than three weeks since the terrible fire that killed 17 students at the dormitory at Chiang Rai’s Pitakkiet Witthaya School and their are still no answers or charges.
Seventeen girls aged 5 to 12 died when the fire broke out in the dormitory of all-girls Pitakkiet Witthaya School just before midnight on May 22. Most of the children were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning, as no alarm was raised to warn them of the fire.
Provincial Police Chief Thanayin Thepraksa told Khaosod reporter Teeranai Charuvastra, autopsy reports, details of injuries and witness’ testimony must be entirely completed first before filing any charges.
Deputy National Police Chief Chalermkiat Srivorakan said “We have to see whether it was reckless action or an accident that no one could have foreseen before we can file any charge, investigators are still collecting testimony.”
This lack of Transparency into the investigation is causing parents of the victims to lose trust with officials.
Winai Pisailert, whose 11-year-old daughter died in the fire, said police have not reached out to him at all to explain how the case is going. His patience is running thin.
Winai said he talked with other victims’ relatives and they share his frustration that the case appears to be going nowhere.
Parents have now called on Mirror Foundation activist Nattapol Singhtuen to help them get answers. He said the job of his team, which includes a lawyer, is to explain to the victims families their legal rights and help them navigate the bureaucratic maze.
One of those rights, he said, is to be informed about the progress of the criminal investigation, which police have not done.
Nattapol also said the victims’ families refuse to accept the explanation given by police that the blaze that killed the 17 girls started from a faulty light bulb.
According to police, the threading of a bulb overheated, melted and fell onto a pile of clothes, starting the fire.
“They want to know the true cause of the fire, so that they can accept it in their hearts,” Nattapol said. “But if the explanation isn’t reasonable, then they can’t accept it. Like this light bulb issue. They know how light bulbs work. They install and use them in their homes, too, and they haven’t seen that kind of incident before.”
The same doubt was previously cast by Pichaya Chantranuwat, who was dispatched by the Council of Engineers to inspect the site of the fire. Pichaya said it was unlikely to happen.
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