Surprise! New booze ban now in effect

ABOVE: Areas affected in Bangkok’s central business district under the 300-meter ban specified in the order signed Monday and expected to go into effect next month. Yesterday a more vaguely worded ban was included in a surprise batch of new laws from the military government which went into immediate effect.

All sales of alcohol near schools nationwide, without exemption or exception, were banned yesterday under a vaguely worded order from the military government.

Although Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha signed a specific order banning alcohol sales within 300 meters on Monday, a new law was unexpectedly published yesterday stating that “no person shall sell alcoholic beverages near the boundary lines of educational institutions or dormitories near educational institutions.”

The law includes no language defining how near is “near.” The law includes all schools, not just high schools and universities. The law includes no exceptions or exemptions. The law went into immediate effect. Yesterday.

Thanakorn Kuptajit, president of the Thai Alcoholic Beverage Business Association told Coconuts today it came out of nowhere.

“I was shocked when I found out about this law yesterday,” Thanakorn said. “The actual law itself is unable to be interpreted. For example, what distance is considered ‘near?’”

Some alcohol sellers have already warned by officials, he added.

That said it appeared to have a total effect of nothing on Bangkok’s nightlife last night, where it was business as usual in areas which would have been affected by the 300-meter ban such as Siam Paragon, CentralWorld, EmQuartier, Soi Cowboy and many other locations in the central business district. Not to mention nationwide.

As we wrote yesterday, the order Prayuth signed Monday would have, as written, created pockets of prohibition throughout Bangkok by banning all alcohol sales except for registered hotels and the few government-designated entertainment zones such as Patpong, Royal City Avenue-upper Thonglor and the nightclub-adult entertainment stretch of Ratchadapisek Road. It was also to go into effect 30 days after being formally published.

The new law was enacted under the military government’s special powers under Section 44 of the interim charter, along with strict punishment for clubs admitting patrons under 20, street racing and noisy nightclubs.

Oh, and those pockets of prohibition may grown into wider zones of prohibition.

Gen. Paiboon Koomchaya, who serves as Justice Minister, said he’d like to see it increased to 500 meters from schools.

The reason given for the ban is to curtail underage drinking and the scourge of student violence. The groups behind it are a coalition of anti-alcohol crusaders and prohibitionists.

The Thai Alcoholic Beverage Business Association has argued simply enforcing the age limit of 20 for sales would be a better way to address the issue than the outsized impact the law would have, were it to be evenly enforced.

Meanwhile many bar and restaurant owners say they haven’t even heard of the ban.

Additional reporting Porsche Jirapatwong.



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