Military government backpedals on booze ban

Patrons continue enjoying fine spirits and company along Bangkok’s Soi Cowboy. Photo: Alden Nusser

The Thai government will spend six months mapping out new entertainment zones to clarify where alcohol can and can not be sold.

After banning by vaguely worded decree all sales of alcohol “near” school property, a member of the military government said yesterday it will start making a new map of sanctioned entertainment zones where alcohol sales are allowed.

The comments from Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya added another mixed message to the conflicting signals from authorities since confusing the public this past week with two competing orders issued under Section 44.

Just yesterday the national police spokesman reiterated in state media that “the majority of entertainment venue operators in Bangkok are willing to obey the new regulation calling for all establishments offering alcoholic beverages to be located away from education institutes by at least 300 meters.”

Days after telling Bangkok Post he wanted the ban extended to 500 meters, Minister Gen. Paiboon was quoted again in a story published late last night there is no radius in the “misunderstood” ban.

“The minister said it would take 180 days to draw up new entertainment zones that would clarify where alcohol could and could not be sold legally,” according to the story by King-oua Laohong. “Until then, there’s nothing that says existing operators cannot sell booze within 300 metres of any school, he added.”

Nothing except for the specific order signed by Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha that unequivocally states “no person shall sell alcoholic beverages within 300 meters from the boundary line of tertiary education institutions and vocational institutions.”

It’s confusing enough to send one reaching for a bottle of the old amber.

Order signed July 20 by Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha. It was more specific than the surprise blanket order issued Thursday which went into immediate effect.

 

Prayuth’s signed order is still to be formally published, although it did not appear in today’s edition of the Royal Thai Government Gazette. After being published it will go into effect 30 days later. It only specified high schools and universities and allowed exemptions for registered hotels and the few government-approved “entertainment zones” such as those at Patpong, Royal City Avenue and along Ratchadapisek Road.

The law enacted Thursday was much broader. It offered no exemptions and used legally nonspecific language to ban all sales “near” all schools and school property such as dormitories.

Although that law went into the books for immediate effect, enforcement has been uneven so far. It was business as usual over the weekend in Bangkok, while police used the law to go after a few bars and clubs outside of the central business district.

Map estimating 300-meter dry zones around an incomplete list of high schools and universities in part of Bangkok’s central business district. For fun it includes the 500-meter radius referenced by Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya last week. Coconuts Bangkok.

 

It’s easy to forget the law affects the entire nation. In some areas outside of Bangkok, officials went door to door with printed maps showing 300-meter radii of schools where businesses had to stop selling alcohol.

After enacting the ban, Paiboon is now saying the government will need to spend six months updating its sanctioned entertainment zones, a process he said should be revisited biannually.

Related:

Little noticeable impact to booze ban so far
Surprise! New booze ban now in effect
Booze ban to create pockets of prohibition

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