BANGKOK — Police on Thursday said charges have yet to be filed in the ongoing investigation into a celebrity’s birthday party responsible for one of the largest clusters of coronavirus infections in the recent outbreak.
Although health minister Anutin Chanvirakul had instructed officials to take legal action against talk show host Techin “DJ Matoom” Ploypetch and those associated with his birthday party at Banyan Tree Hotel on Jan. 9, no legal action was ever taken. Police said they still needed to question more witnesses before criminal charges can be filed against them.
“No one has been charged so far,” Metropolitan Police Division 5 commander Sophon Saraphat confirmed by phone.
District chief of Sathon, where the Banyan Tree Hotel is located, filed a complaint to Thung Maha Mek Police Station on Friday. District director Pansak Charoensuk said partygoers and the hotel could be held liable for violating the Emergency Decree and the Communicable Diseases Act if there is clear evidence of wrongdoings.
Breaching of the Emergency Decree is punishable by up to two years in prison and a maximum fine of 40,000 baht.
Maj. Gen. Sophon said health officials from the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration met with investigators on Wednesday to provide more evidence, but he refused to disclose the details.
Thung Maha Mek police superintendent could not be immediately reached for comments, though he said earlier on Sunday that investigators are waiting for Techin to recover and waitstaff of the rooftop restaurant to complete their quarantine before investigation can begin.
“We are expediting the investigation. Things should get clearer within this month,” Col. Chaiyapant Petchsodsin said.
At least 30 coronavirus infections could be traced back to the rooftop party and the subsequent private party held inside a suite at the same hotel, according to the latest report by the Department of Disease Control.
Under the current anti-coronavirus regulations, alcohol cannot be sold or consumed in restaurants, bars are ordered to shut down, and any gatherings are prohibited unless given permission by city authorities.
But metro police commander Phukphong Phongpetra said Tuesday health authorities did not find the hotel’s rooftop restaurant to violate any of those guidelines, since no alcoholic beverages were served and the restaurant closed at 9pm as mandated by the Governor’s order at the time.
Even the health minister voiced his skepticism at the finding.
“I have to ask the society to judge for themselves whether they believe that,” Anutin told reporters on Tuesday.
Lt. Gen. Phukphong said investigators will now shift their focus to the private party held inside a suite by Techin on the same night after transaction records showed alcohol was billed and the room keycard was used for 26 times.
“We are checking how many people were there and what they were doing inside the room,” Phukphong said. “Police are not idle, we will gather as much evidence as we can.”
Broadcasting company A-Time Media, where Techin works, said in a statement on Wednesday that the DJ’s condition is now stable and he is willing to cooperate with the authorities once he is recovered.
The Banyan Tree Hotel declined to comment on the matter.
The lack of any legal repercussions in Techin’s case is a drastic contrast to a recent police raid on a bar on Phangan Island in Surat Thani province, where security officers arrested more than 100 partygoers, including 89 foreigners, on charges of violating the Emergency Decree’s ban on gatherings.
The suspects were later fined 4,000 baht each and released.