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Payout over Thailand fire 'pitiful'

Victims of a nightclub fire in Thailand have been awarded a "pitiful" amount of compensation, a lawyer for one of the Britons caught up in the blaze has said.

Sixty-seven people died and more than 100 were injured in the incident at Bangkok's upmarket Santika Club on New Year's Day 2009.

The Bangkok Criminal Court found nightclub owner Wisuk Sejsawat and company executive Boonchu Laosinart guilty of causing the deaths of other persons without intent and jailed them both for three years. It also ordered Boonchu's company to pay 8.7 million baht (£162,000) in compensation to the victims or their families.

But British survivor Oliver Smart said his claim for his injuries alone had been valued at around the same amount.

And his lawyer, Clive Garner, a partner at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, said there were "grave concerns" about the "very low level" of the payout.

"This is a pitiful sum and is clearly insufficient to compensate those who have suffered serious injuries and the dozens of families who lost loved ones in this terrible incident.

"Even the costs of medical treatment and rehabilitation alone will significantly exceed this sum. We are very concerned about the injustice of the award and how this could affect the recovery of victims."

More than 1,000 revellers were inside the nightclub when an indoor fireworks display set off after the countdown to New Year ignited the blaze.

Mr Smart was one of four Britons taken to hospital after the stampede to flee the fire. He spent six weeks in hospital, where he was treated for serious burns to his body, face, hands and back in intensive care, and was forced to take five months off work, his lawyer said.

Mr Smart, an area manager for an insurance firm, said it had been a "devastating experience" for his whole family and called the amount of compensation ordered "disappointing".

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