Army Fires Officials in Charge of Virus Cluster Boxing Stadium

Boxers fight at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium on Feb. 4, 2020.
Boxers fight at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium on Feb. 4, 2020.

BANGKOK — The management of an army-owned boxing stadium responsible for one of the largest clusters of coronavirus cases in Thailand was expelled from office on Thursday, the army said.

Top military prosecutor Lt. Gen. Burin Thongprapai said the inquiry committee found the officials in charge of the Lumpinee Boxing Stadium to have neglected disease control measures and allowed a match to go ahead on March 6 despite a closure order. The match resulted in at least 219 cases of coronavirus infection.

The stadium’s president, Maj. Gen. Rachit Aroonrungsri, who also served as the chief of the army welfare department, was not removed, but transferred to an inactive post, Burin said. He is due to retire this September.

The alarm for mass infection was first raised when actor and boxer Matthew Deane posted online that he was diagnosed with COVID-19 after attending the match. The stadium later announced suspension of all matches on March 14, but infection number related to the match skyrocketed nonetheless.

Lumpinee Boxing Stadium is owned and operated by the Royal Thai Army as one of its commercial ventures. It is chaired entirely by army officers, including the army chief Gen. Apirat Kongsompong who sat as the “honorary chairman” of the stadium.

Boxing stadiums, along with other “high-risk venues” such as schools and nightclubs, may reopen under the next phase of business reopening, Taweesin Visanuyothin, spokesman of the Center for the COVID-19 Situation Administration, said Thursday.

The list is set to be finalized by mid-June, he said.