Thai police seek arrest warrants for couple over deadly warehouse explosion

Matahari Ismail and Mariyam Ahmad
Narathiwat and Pattani, Thailand
Thai police seek arrest warrants for couple over deadly warehouse explosion Members of a Royal Thai Army bomb squad clear the site in Muno village, Narathiwat province, a day after a massive explosion at a warehouse where fireworks were stored, July 30, 2023.

Yosdanai Bula said he lost five family members when a warehouse exploded in the heart of his community during the weekend, killing at least 11 people and injuring more than 200 others, according to officials. 

The blast at the warehouse, which stored fireworks as well as agricultural supplies and equipment, was so big that it leveled hundreds of houses and other structures within a 500-yard radius, said police in Narathiwat, a province in Thailand’s restive Deep South.

“I never thought this could have happened to me. I have no home now, it’s burned. I’m shocked, I don’t know what to do,” Yosdanai told BenarNews.

The village defense volunteer said he could not return home in time to check on the welfare of his loved ones because he was helping pull neighbors out from beneath piles of rubble after the explosion in Muno village on July 29. 

“My father’s home is left with just columns. My father and two sisters were totally burned,” Yosdanai said through tears. “I lost five loved ones – my father, two sisters, a year-old nephew and an 8-month-old niece. My mother was crushed under a concrete pile, but survived.”

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Yosdanai Bula talks about losing five family members in the Muno community blast, July 30, 2023. [BenarNews]

On Tuesday, police said they had requested arrest warrants in connection with the explosion for a couple registered as owners of the warehouse.

Sompong Nakul and Piyanut Peugwirawat went to nearby Malaysia on July 27, two days before the huge explosion, police said.

Officials said the two were no-shows on Tuesday.

“They told us they were going to give themselves in today but they did not come today. We are seeking an arrest warrant,” police Maj. Kraisorn Leunoonkab told BenarNews.

On Monday, the regional commander outlined charges that the couple could face.

“[W]e will acquire arrest warrants on charges of possessing substances which caused a deadly explosion, injuries and damages to properties,” said Lt. Gen. Nantahdej Yoinual, commander of the Regional Police Bureau 9.

The explosion occurred after 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Rescuers from local authorities and volunteers rushed to the scene to save people but it took them three hours to extinguish an ensuing blaze. 

Firefighters were impeded because of ripple explosions at the warehouse in the wake of the first blast, officials said.

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The site of the massive explosion at a fireworks warehouse in Muno village, Narathiwat province, is seen in this aerial photo, July 29, 2023. [Courtesy Narathiwat province officials]

Police initially said that as many as five metric tons of gunpowder, a low explosive used in pyrotechnics such as fireworks, were stored at the warehouse. After the explosion, officers said they confiscated another metric ton of firecrackers, fireworks and other pyrotechnics from the couple’s nearby townhouse.  

Authorities have yet to report the cause of the explosion but a source, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters, said a welding accident could have led to the blast.  

An official said Sompong and Piyanut were preparing to ship the fireworks to Malaysia for the Merdeka celebration on Aug. 31, marking that country’s independence from the British Empire.

Narathiwat Gov. Sanan Pong-aksorn said the warehouse was licensed to store agricultural equipment and firecrackers. Fireworks and other pyrotechnics were not allowed to be stored there.

Yosdanai, the village defense volunteer, recalled that his father had told the owners of the warehouse to not store all the explosives in the community.

Footage from CCTV showed the blast shaking nearby buildings. 

Residents of Nartahiwat and other provinces in the Deep South live under the constant threat of explosions from roadside bombs or other types of attacks blamed on separatist insurgents in the predominantly Malay Muslim border region.


Of the 209 hurt in the blast on Saturday, 10 remained hospitalized on Tuesday with non-life threatening injuries at the Sungai Kolok hospital, according to authorities.

Authorities set up makeshift shelters for six families at a local stadium, while hundreds stayed with relatives. 

Initially, the government announced it would give 50,000 baht (U.S. $1,456) as compensation to each of the families of those killed, along with 30,000 baht ($873) to each of the other families affected by the explosion. Additional emergency funds are expected to be available to help families rebuild their homes and compensate for losses. 

An official said Sompong and Piyanut were preparing to ship the fireworks to Malaysia for the Merdeka celebration on Aug. 31, marking that country’s independence from Britain.


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