There is a famous quote “Wherever comes man comes tragedy and comedy also” which in many respects seems a very fitting description of modern era disasters in Pattaya. Since the 1960’s Pattaya has enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame, the former sleepy fishing village is now one of the most famous tourist destinations in Asia. The tourist masses have flocked to Pattaya and the city has boomed in both population and size. New high rise hotels and condo buildings dominate the skyline, symbolizing prosperity and Pattaya’s dominant position in Thailand’s tourism industry.
Pattaya’s meteoric rise has gone unchecked but not without incident. Disasters of varying extent have blighted the reputation of the city in recent years, disasters which could well have been avoided.
July 11th 1997: 91 people died in a fire at the Royal Jomtien Resort Hotel after a leaking gas cylinder ignited and caused fire to quickly spread to the upper floors of the hotel. The hotel had no fire suppression measures in place and guests were trapped by the fire. Apparently, the hotel staff had started locking the hotels fire exits to prevent guests from leaving without paying. Many guests jumped to their death to try and escape the smoke and fire, the lucky ones were plucked from the roof or their open window by helicopter. The majority of the dead were found behind the locked fire exits where they had succumbed to heat and smoke inhalation.
May 8th 2006: 8 people were killed in a fire at Route 999 Nightclub. As in the Royal Jomtien Resort Hotel fire, locked fire exits were again to blame, trapping all 8 inside with no route of escape. Reports suggest the fire started before the night club opened, and that all the people who died were staff.
November 3rd 2013: 6 people died and dozens were injured when an overcrowded ferry ‘Koh Lahn Travel 1’ capsized 500 meters off Nuan Beach, Koh Lahn. The boat encountered difficulties either due to an engine fire or hitting an obstacle, resulting in passengers fleeing to the top deck, which resulted in the boat becoming top heavy and unstable. The ferry capsized and left passengers stranded in the water without life-vests. The ferry was licensed to carry 150 passengers, but some reports say it was carrying as many as 209.
Although all these Pattaya disasters were initially caused by accidents or human error, it seems they reached disastrous proportions for the sake of profit. A desire to be prosperous ultimately led to a flouting of regulations and standards, which had they been in effect might have resulted in these 3 disasters being mere incidents rather than the disasters they unfortunately were.