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Bid to Change Thailand’s Archaic Alcohol Sales Hours Rejected

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Bid to Change Thailand's Archaic Alcohol Sales Hours Rejected

A government commission in Thailand has rejected a request to lift the long-standing prohibition on alcoholic beverage sales between 2 and 5 p.m., citing concerns about public health and safety.

The Thai Alcohol Beverage Business Association had advocated the move, claiming that it would be consistent with the government’s strategy to boost tourism.

The cabinet passed the suggestion to the Ministry of Public Health’s alcoholic beverage control committee, which held a broad discussion on Thursday, according to Dr. Thongchai Keeratihattayakorn, chief of the Department of Disease Control and committee secretary.

All participants, including representatives from the ministries of Public Health, Tourism, Interior, Finance, Social Development, and Human Security, as well as other experts, agreed that the afternoon sales ban should remain in effect, he added.

The committee’s resolution will be transmitted to the National Alcoholic Beverage Policy Committee, which will make the final decision when it meets on Monday, according to Dr Thongchai.

“If it agrees (to extend sales hours), it needs to amend the related laws,” he told reporters. “However, the ministry has affirmed its stance to protect people’s health.”

According to Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew, the afternoon prohibition is not covered by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, but was included in a proclamation made by a coup maker in 1972.

Dr Thongchai stated that his group seriously considered the merits and cons of extending selling hours for spirits, wine and beer, but participants raised concern about an increase in alcohol-related accidents.

He stated that alcohol consumption was responsible for around 3,000 traffic accidents, or 25% of the total, over the recent New Year holiday period.

According to Dr. Thongchai, preliminary information suggests an increase in social consequences and alcohol-related criminal behaviour since authorities decided to extend hours for serving alcohol in chosen locations to boost tourism.

Thailand’s National Alcoholic Beverage Policy Committee has approved a pilot project that enables bars and restaurants to stay up until 4 a.m. in Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Bangkok, and Koh Samui. It takes effect on December 15. The group has stated that if the initial phase is successful, more locations may be added.

“We have seen a trend of an increasing number of accidents and other related social impacts from the policy,” Dr. Thongchai added. “But we have not seen the result of the economic impact, which might require another four months to see the picture.”

A civil society network opposing alcohol use in Thailand gathered before the ministry on Thursday to protest extended alcohol sales. Its members stated that the social and health consequences would be significant, particularly losses from traffic accidents caused by inebriated drivers.

The activists want to closely follow the national committee’s ultimate decision, said Theerapat Kahawong, coordinator of the Network for Prevention and Impact Reduction from Alcoholic Beverages.

“We may meet again at Government House next week because we are concerned that an alcoholic beverage corporation may attempt to grow its operations. If that’s the case, we’ll seek justice in court,” he stated.

Thailand’s Former Thai Prime Minister Freed

Thailand’s Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra Freed

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