Fire damages elaborate mansion at seaside park in Thailand

BANGKOK (AP) — A gaudy mansion in a Buddhist-themed tourist park in Thailand’s seaside resort city of Pattaya was seriously damaged by a fire Wednesday that sent thick black smoke billowing into the sky.

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No one was injured in the blaze at Baan Sukhawadee, Banglamung district police Maj. Sithawat Chawakorntherarat said.

The beachfront property, covering 12.8 hectares (31.6 acres), houses gardens, buildings and statues devoted to Chinese and Thai culture and history.

According to its Facebook page, it had been closed for several months due to the coronavirus outbreak, but was due to reopen to tourists on Wednesday.

Sithawat said the fire broke out at about 10:30 a.m. and was put under control about four hours later. The cause was being investigated, he said.

Several times since 2018, officials have ordered part of the property demolished because it allegedly encroached on public land, a charge denied by its owner, poultry industry tycoon Panya Chotitawan. He heads Saha Farms Co. Ltd, a major exporter of frozen chicken.

The status of the land dispute was not immediately clear and Sithawat declined to speak about it.

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