A proposal to ban all online sales of alcohol in Thailand is being decried as unnecessary and counterproductive by the industry today.
After Health Ministry officials on Thursday drafted a ban of all such sales, arguing the pandemic-era boom had made alcohol too easily accessible, sellers lined up to criticize it as yet more overreach by overzealous regulators.
“It’s the result of the government’s big lies,” said Thanakorn Kuptajit, president of Thai Alcohol Beverage Business Association.
He called the ban “absurd” and contradictory to the same department’s promotion of social distancing to control the pandemic. As for concerns about accessibility, he said almost all online sellers – upward of 90% – have gateways to restrict sales by age.
Home delivery and sale promotions have been on the rise without any limits on age, time of sale or location of drinking, said Satit Pitudecha, the deputy ministry head who led Thursday’s meeting.
Jerome Le Louer, owner of popular online delivery service Wishbeer, said there were better ways to stop underage drinking.
“I don’t really understand the purpose of this measure. It’s obvious that minors don’t need to go online to buy alcohol, although it’s possible,” Jerome said. “I think the government should relax some laws to allow businesses to bounce back, instead of making them stricter.”
Rather than invent new rules, the government could better reduce underage drinking by enforcing existing measures, he said, such as requiring retailers to ask for identification when ordering and making deliveries.
Under current law, vendors can sell online so long as they hold a valid license to sell alcohol.
The proposal would amend two sections of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act to say that no one could sell or provide service to consumers “through electronic devices or in a manner of electronic communication.”
If approved by the cabinet, the law would come into force 90 days from its publication in the Royal Gazette.
Anyone caught violating it would face a maximum penalty of a THB10,000 fine and six months in jail.
Archirawas Wannasrisawas, whose company imports Thai dark lager brand Liger, led a group of importers and distributors to the Health Ministry yesterday to petition against the ban. He said it would hurt hundreds of Thai importers and distributors economically.
Records show 735 registered alcohol distributors, some of which do not have outlets and depend heavily on online sales.
The proposed ban comes as prohibitionist elements have been emboldened by the pandemic social climate to push new restrictions. All sales were banned nearly a month at the height of the outbreak, vague regulations on advertising have again been zealously enforced, and bars only reopened Wednesday with strict limitations in place.
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