Government Rejects Bid To Lift Alcohol Sales Ban in Afternoon

A government panel has turned down a request to lift the long-standing ban on selling alcoholic drinks from 2pm to 5pm, citing concerns over public health and safety.

The request for this amendment was made by the Thai Alcohol Beverage Business Association, arguing that it aligned with the government’s strategy to boost tourism.

The proposal was reviewed by the alcoholic beverage control committee at the Ministry of Public Health following a referral from the cabinet, as shared by Dr. Thongchai Keeratihattayakorn, head of the Department of Disease Control and secretary of the committee.

The discussion included unanimous agreement from representatives of various ministries including Public Health, Tourism, Interior, Finance, and Social Development and Human Security, along with other specialists, to maintain the ban on afternoon alcohol sales, according to Dr. Thongchai.

He further mentioned that the committee’s decision will be presented to the National Alcoholic Beverage Policy Committee for a final determination in their upcoming Monday meeting.

“If it agrees (to extend sales hours), it needs to amend the related laws,” he said. “However, the ministry has affirmed its stance to protect people’s health.”

He noted that the restriction on afternoon sales is not covered in the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act but originates from a decree issued by a military government in 1972, as clarified by Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew.

The committee thoroughly weighed the advantages and disadvantages of extending the sale times for alcoholic products, expressing concerns over the potential spike in alcohol-related incidents, Dr. Thongchai remarked.

He pointed out that during the recent New Year holiday, alcohol was a factor in approximately 3,000 road accidents, accounting for 25% of the total.

Dr. Thongchai also observed an uptick in societal issues and crimes linked to alcohol following the extension of serving times in certain areas to encourage tourism.

A trial run approved by the National Alcoholic Beverage Policy Committee permits bars and eateries in Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Bangkok, and Koh Samui to operate until 4am, starting December 15, with the possibility of including more areas based on the success of this initial stage.

“We have seen a trend of an increasing number of accidents and other related social impacts from the policy,” stated Dr. Thongchai. “But we have not seen the result of the economic impact, which might require another four months to see the picture.”

A group advocating against alcohol use demonstrated at the ministry on Thursday, warning of the dire social and health consequences of extended alcohol sales, particularly highlighting the dangers of driving under the influence.

Theerapat Kahawong, the coordinator of the Network for Prevention and Impact Reduction from Alcoholic Beverages, stated that the activists intend to vigilantly observe the national committee’s ultimate verdict.

“We might gather again during the meeting next week at Government House because we are afraid that there might be some attempt made by an alcoholic beverage company to boost its business. If so, we will seek justice from the courts,” he said.