More than 1,000 animals killed as fire rips through famous Bangkok market

More than 1,000 animals killed as fire rips through famous Bangkok market
  • PublishedJune 12, 2024

More than 1,000 exotic animals, reptiles and pets have perished in a sprawling market in Thailand’s capital Bangkok after a fire ripped through over 100 shops, authorities say.

The blaze ravaged about 1,300 square metres of the Chatuchak Weekend Market, killing animals including snakes, spiders and Siamese fighting fish, Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt told reporters.

Some 118 shops were burnt down and an initial inspection suggests that the fire was caused by an electrical fault, police Superintendent Phuwadon Ounpho said.

The fire is believed to have started in the ornamental fish zone in Srisomrat Market, adjacent to the bigger Chatuchak, at about 4am, local time, according to Tivakorn Prongseng, a police inspector investigating the case.

Firefighters and rescue workers on Tuesday picked through carcasses, mangled cages, blackened walls and collapsed metal shop roofs. 

A medic treated a chicken near the smouldering ruins of one row of shops, according to a Reuters witness.

The fire was extinguished by 6am on Tuesday, Inspector Tivakorn said. 

A firefighter pours water on an injured chicken following the fire.
A firefighter pours water on an injured chicken following the fire.(AFP: Chanakarn Laosarakham)

“I’m shocked. I feel like crying, but there are no tears,” Siamese fighting fish shop owner Suwannee Sangdee, 49, who fears her small establishment has been left in ruins and all her precious fish dead.

“Now I have to think about what’s next.”

A shop employee, 36-year-old Meecha had to jump out of the window to escape from the fire, according to Thai media website Thaiger.

“I was sleeping in the loft above the shop when I heard the cries of various animals. Suddenly, thick smoke filled the air, making it impossible to breathe.”

Meecha’s shop housed rare birds, including a prized cockatoo valued at 30,000 baht ($1,200).

.Debris and reptile cages are seen following a fire
Debris and charred reptile cages after the fire.(Reuters: Athit Perawongmetha)

Officials said they were still working on estimating the cost of damage, and that affected shop owners could register for compensation.

Mr Sittipunt said people could help affected shop owners by offering to house surviving animals.

The market is a top tourist draw, bringing in shoppers from all over the world to browse its hundreds of shops and stalls for items ranging from food and drink to clothing, furniture, plants, books and pets.

Fires have previously damaged sections of the Chatuchak market.

Animal welfare concerns 

A general view of the exotic animal shops after a fire.
An exotic animal shop damaged by the fire.  (Reuters: Chalinee Thirasupa)

The pet zone of the market has often been criticised for the animals’ poor living conditions.

The Wildlife Friends Foundation in Thailand urged stricter regulations and enforcement of animal rights in a statement issued after the fire. 

Edwin Wiek, the NGO’s director described the Chatuchak market as a “shame on Bangkok”.

“It has been allowed to continue selling animals unethically and often illegally for far too long,” he said in the statement. 

“Many of these poor animals are smuggled into the country, often illegally. It is immoral, cruel, a health and safety hazard, and completely unnecessary.

“We are urging the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration to act now and stop this place from selling animals, particularly wild animals.

“We deeply hope this disaster brings about the permanent closure of the live animal trading at Chatuchak market.”

Wildlife organisations have also accused some vendors of involvement in the trafficking of rare and endangered species, such as turtles, tortoises and birds.


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