Extended Alcohol Sales Hours Rejected Amid Safety Concerns

A government panel has firmly decided against extending alcohol sales hours, citing the increasing number of casualties and road accidents.

Public Health Minister Somsak Thepsutin noted that the ministry’s alcoholic beverage control committee reviewed road accident statistics and legal considerations due to the broad impact of the issue.

Although the committee opposes longer sales hours, the debate continues as five draft bills concerning alcohol regulations are pending in parliament, according to the minister.

Mr. Somsak made these remarks after chairing a meeting at the ministry on Tuesday.

Currently, alcoholic beverages can be sold in stores from 11 am to 2 pm and from 5 pm to midnight, totaling 10 hours daily. Bars, restaurants, and nightclubs are permitted to sell alcohol during hours sanctioned by local authorities.

Disease Control Department head Thongchai Keeratihattayakorn reported that the panel reviewed a pilot project that extended alcohol sales by two hours at major tourist sites including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Phuket, and Koh Samui.

This extension, effective since last December 15, was intended to allow approximately 1,800 entertainment venues to operate until 4 am, extending alcohol sales to 2 am to boost revenues and promote tourism, explained Dr. Thongchai.

However, the extension led to a notable increase in road accidents and fatalities, particularly between 2 am and 6 am. It remains undecided whether the extended hours will apply to other regions, Dr. Thongchai added.

Panel member Dr. Kumnuan Ungchusak reported a 31% increase in road accident fatalities in the pilot areas this January compared to the same period last year, according to data from the Thai Road Safety Centre, which is managed by Road Accident Victims Protection Co. Ltd, a key provider of compulsory motor insurance.

Additionally, the ban on retail alcohol sales from 2 pm to 5 pm is not included in the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act. Instead, this restriction stems from an announcement made by the coup regime of Thanom Kittikachorn in 1972, a measure that remains in effect to this day.