Liquor stores in Yangon Region are forbidden from selling imported spirits, several government departments announced last weekend.
On Sept. 29 and 30, the regional General Administration Department, Food and Drug Administration, Internal Revenue Department, Department of Consumer Affairs, and Department of Trade held meetings with local retailers, informing them of the new prohibition. The prohibition even applies to those with FL-12 licenses, which were first issued to retailers in 1996 to permit sales of foreign liquor.
Police and other local administrative authorities are expected to begin inspecting liquor shops to enforce the new rule. Violators will face three years in prison and the confiscation of their goods.
The regional government has said the rule is the consequence of two complaints received by the Department of Consumer Affairs alleging that FL-12 license holders were selling counterfeit alcohol. The department also reportedly received several reports in July alleging that retailers were selling foreign liquor brands that were not approved for import.
“After the complaint about counterfeit alcohol that could endanger public health, we had to take action,” said Myint Cho, director of the Department of Consumer Affairs, during the meeting over the weekend.
“Illegally imported alcohol costs the government lost tax revenue and can endanger public health. The amount of foreign alcohol allowed to be imported is limited, so we will investigate how larger quantities are entering the country,” he said.
The ban is expected to harm Myanmar’s already faltering tourism industry. Tun Tun Aye, vice chairman of the Myanmar Bartenders Association, told the Myanmar Times: “The country’s tourism is already down, and if travelers can’t get imported alcohol here, we will feel the impact even more.”
He went on: “We accept that beer and cigarettes shouldn’t be imported because we have our own premium beer and cigarettes, but alcohol is not like that. We need quality alcohol for foreign visitors and special occasions.”