THAILAND - Wisuk Setsawat, owner of the Santika Pub, which caught fire on New Year's Eve 2008, killing 67 revellers and injuring 117 others, was yesterday acquitted by the Appeals Court.
The court found that the charges in his indictment for directly causing death through carelessness were unclear and lacked evidence.
However, the verdict also upheld a lower court decision, reached in September 2011, which sentenced Bunchoo Laoseehanart, executive of Focus Light Sound System, to a three-year imprisonment term without suspension.
Bunchoo was held responsible for the use of pyrotechnics in the upscale pub that resulted in the fire.
The court ordered Bunchoon and the company to pay a total of Bt8.7 million (S$346,000) to families of some fire victims. Bunchoo has been released on a Bt500,000 bail guarantee.
The Appeals Court judges said Wisuk's failure to provide adequate fire-safety equipment in the pub, located off Soi Sukhumvit 33, though in violation of the 1979 Building Control Act, was not a direct cause of the fire.
The prosecution lacked evidence to support an allegation that more than 500 revellers were allowed inside the pub in violation of the legal limit, the judges said.
Malee Thanompanyarak, a relative of a victim, expressed surprise over what she dubbed "an about-turn" in the sentence. The unlawful lack of fire-safety equipment cited against the owner in the Bangkok South Criminal Court verdict was simply overlooked by yesterday's verdict, Malee said.