The Nation


2010 Political Violence

Insurer not have to pay compensation for mall burnt : Court

The Appeal Court has ruled that AXA Life Insurance does not have to pay compensation for the burning down of Centre One mall in the Victory Monument area in Bangkok during the political riots in May 2010, because the fire stemmed from incited political chaos and terrorism.

In a civil lawsuit, People Plaza Co sued the insurance firm for Bt122.8 million in compensation plus interest, the primary court ruled AXA must pay compensation to People Plaza - Bt108.4 million plus interest of 7.5 per cent per year, so AXA appealed last year. It claimed that the damage to Centre One resulted from the political protest and clashes at over the reclaiming of a protest site and dispersal of a demonstration.

In the verdict read on Monday, the Appeal Court said People Plaza insured the building with AXA from January 16 2010 to January 16, 2011 for a Bt165 million insurance sum. On May 19, 2010, from 4pm to 6pm, 200-300 people gathered in front of the mall and damaged the glass panes to loot shops and burn tables, chairs and goods. Fire fighters came to put out flames the next day. Hence People Plaza asked AXA to pay compensation, but the insurer took the case to court.

The court saw that the mall did have insurance covering all risks except that from political unrest and, although red-shirt leaders declared the demonstration ended several hours before, the arson resulted from the protest and inciting speeches due to the political conflict. The court was not convinced that the mall fire was done by reckless teenagers, motorcycle taxi-men and others who took the opportunity of political chaos to steal things and burn down the place.

The court said that the fire seemed to be done with intention to cause damage to the country, not a theft, and after the fire broke out, firemen were blocked from accessing the place. Some cloth-tying arrows and bullet holes were also found at the scene. The plaintiff's building fire was most likely caused by some protesters who used violence for political gains and wished to intimidate the government and people - which could also be regarded as a terrorist act by definition of the insurance policy, the court said. So, the defendant did not have to be responsible and the lawsuit was thus dismissed, the court ruled.

The plaintiff still has 30 days to appeal to the Supreme Court. This ruling was for civil codes and had nothing to do with criminal lawsuits against the red-shirt leaders for terrorism.

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