Move Forward Party opposes alcohol ban on Buddhist holidays

Prominent members of the Move Forward Party (MFP), which recently claimed victory in elections, have voiced their disagreement with the Thai government’s ban on alcohol sales during significant Buddhist holidays, arguing that it restricts freedom.

Amarat Chokpamitkul, an MFP executive, expressed her disagreement with the prohibition of alcohol sales on Vesak Day, a holiday that marks the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and death, via social media. Amarat stated that the ban on alcohol sales during Buddhist holidays contradicts Thailand’s constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion, as people of faith other than Buddhism reside in the country.

Buddhism encourages abstinence from alcohol to avoid recklessness and misconduct. The ban, which does not apply to liquor sales at duty-free shops in airports, imposes penalties of up to six months in prison and/or a fine of up to 10,000 baht for violations.

Amarat suggested that authorities should implement alternative measures to regulate alcohol consumption, such as enforcing drink-driving laws, as such bans are uncommon in other countries. She said that Thailand is home to followers of various religions and supports freedom of religious belief, Bangkok Post reported.

Thaopipop Limjitakon, a Bangkok Move Forward MP-elect who previously proposed legislation to end the alcohol industry’s monopoly, argued that the alcohol sales ban based on religious belief infringes on the constitutional freedoms of religion and occupation.

Songkran Pakchokdee, director of the Stop Drink network, said that the alcohol sales ban aligns with the World Health Organization’s guideline, which states that prohibiting alcohol sales on religious days is an effective, low-cost measure to control access to alcoholic beverages. He said…

“The measure is intended to limit access to the sources of alcohol sales, not to infringe on the rights of drinkers because you can store your drinks at home.

“No one (else) complained about this matter. Although Buddhists are not everyone in Thailand, they form 95% (of the population). I believe the majority do not have any problem.”

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.