Fire at Notorious Bangkok Market Kills 1,000 Caged Animals

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A fire has killed around 1,000 caged animals at Bangkok’s Chatuchak Weekend Market, one of South East Asia’s largest open air markets.

The early morning blaze broke out at around 4:10 a.m. local time and engulfed more than 100 pet shops in the famous market, according to Bangkok officials. Caged animals including dogs, birds, cats, and snakes were reportedly burned to death in their cages.

No human casualties have been reported as a result of the fire. 

Officials have said it took emergency responders around an hour to gain control of the fire, which was reportedly caused by an electrical short circuit. While officials are still calculating the financial damage incurred by the fire, affected shop owners have been encouraged to register for compensation.

Chatuchak, like many markets in the Thai capital, is saturated with a variety of stores in its narrow lanes. The tourist hotspot boasts more than 15,000 stalls across 26 sections—including antiques, food, and clothing—and claims to attract 200,000 visitors at the weekend. 

The pet section of the market is open throughout the week, and has frequently been criticized for its treatment of animals. Tuesday’s blaze invited renewed criticism from animal rights groups, including PETA.

“Animals are not ours to use for our entertainment,” PETA’s senior vice-president Jason Baker said on Tuesday, the BBC reported. “PETA urges the Thai government to ensure that this facility, where captive animals suffer, never reopens.”

The Wildlife Friends Foundation (WFFT) in Thailand used the fire to point to the illegal smuggling of rare and endangered species, a practice that is prevalent among pet vendors in Chatuchak. 

“Chatuchak market is a shame on the city of Bangkok. It has been allowed to continue selling animals unethically and often illegally for far too long,” WFFT’s director Edwin Wiek said in a statement. He added that the sale of exotic animals in the market “is immoral, cruel, a health and safety hazard, and completely unnecessary."

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