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Inferno Destroys Embattled Pattaya Tourist Attraction Baan Sukhawadee

Fire destroys Pattaya tourist attraction Baan Sukhawadee House

An inferno sparked by an electrical short destroyed major section of Pattaya’s Baan Sukhawadee, a tourist attraction that had been threatened with demolition after years of encroachment claims.

An explosion that occurred after 10 a.m. when power was restored to the ostentatious Sukhumvit Road mansion’s Buddhabaramee building scorched carpeting and across upholstered furniture, up wallpapered walls and across the ceiling, destroying priceless Buddha images and religious relics showcased there.

From there, flames jumped to the domed main building where it quickly consumed the famed wooden structure. The inferno raged on the domeed building’s second floor, sending burning timbers crashing to the floor of the 5,200-sq.-meter structure.

Intense heat and the uncontrollable flames prompted Banglamung District Chief Amnart Charoensri to warn that the entire structure might collapse, but 20 fire companies managed after nearly four hours to bring the fire under control before that happened.

Six employees had been in the buildings when fire broke out, but all managed to escape safely.

Amnart said Baan Sukhawadee had been scheduled to reopen Wednesday afternoon after being closed for four months, both by the coronavirus lockdown and by his own directive due to Sukhawadee repeatedly ignoring demolition orders for parts of the attraction encroaching on public land.

Damage to the property initially was estimated at 200 million baht with untold millions more to the religious artifacts. Sukhawadee is insured with Dippaya Insurance Co. for 2 billion baht.

Built in 2000 by Panya Chotitawan, chairman of poutry giant Saha Farms, Sukhawadee was both his pride and major legal problem. Panya was on site Wednesday, glumbly touring the wreckage of his prized mansion without speaking to reporters.

Sukhawadee had been closed by Pattaya City Hall last year and only had reopened before the pandemic hit, forcing it to again shut down. It has battled legal challenges from the city since 2016 when the city said 13 percent of the entire property was built on public land, including allowing tour buses to park on the Kratinglai waterfront and shutting down a public street for its own use.

In April, Pattaya brought in bulldozers to demolish a Building B, a one-story, 1,400-sq.-meter, reinforced-concrete building encroaching on public land, and Building C, a 75-sq.-meter concrete shed and other fixtures around both structures.

In December, Pattaya cited two five-story concrete buildings being constructed that lie on waterfront land that, city officials say, Panya doesn’t own.