Ethics probe: Thai Deputy House Speaker under fire for beer post

Padipat Suntiphada,

“With which candidate would you rather have a beer?” That question has become a standard litmus test for likeability and authenticity in American politics. But in Thai politics, having a beer can land you in a massive political scandal.

Padipat Suntiphada, the Deputy House speaker, was recently shown on video on social media indulging in a craft beer, stirring a countrywide uproar and demands for an ethics probe.

The brouhaha that ensued now finds him at the centre of calls for criminal investigation and an ethics probe. Social activist Srisuwan Janya took the matter to the halls of Parliament yesterday, urging House Speaker Wan Muhamad Noor Matha to initiate an investigation into his deputy upon suspicion of a gross ethical breach.

Srisuwan posits that Padipat’s video is in clear violation of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, a stringent law imposing severe penalties for any activities deemed to encourage the act of drinking.

Across the country, ordinary people and even celebrities have fallen prey to the law for simply posting personal photos featuring their chosen alcoholic beverage on social media platforms. Any visibility of labels, logos or brand names carries hefty fines from 50,000 to 500,000 baht.

Furthermore, media establishments face the relentless threat of authority warnings if news content features images or videos highlighting alcoholic products with identifiable labels.

Padipat Suntiphada, a member of the progressive Move Forward Party (MFP) and a representative for Phitsanulok, was pictured on camera raising a craft beer can produced in his native province. The MFP has been tenaciously vocal in their support of small-scale beer and liquor producers facing unending challenges under the overarching laws that favour a select few established enterprises.

But Srisuwan cried foul, calling for the ethics probe while acknowledging the past difficulties in pursuing ethical investigations against MPs.

“Padipat cannot evade the repercussions for his blatant disregard of the professional responsibilities tied to his political role. Even when a violation of ethics was confirmed, MPs got away with a mere slap on the wrist. But now ethical infringements carry a severe legal punishment under the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) law.”

To illustrate his point, he referenced the case of ex-Palang Pracharath Party MP Pareena Kraikupt. She was stripped of her MP status following a probe and Supreme Court verdict indicting her for grave political ethics infringement by illegally acquiring state land in her Ratchaburi constituency.

Srisuwan voiced intentions of filing a complaint with the NACC against Padipat within the next two days reported Bangkok Post. Yesterday, he formally lodge his petition for an ethics probe against Padipat with the Office of Alcohol Control Committee (OACC), a branch of the Department of Disease Control.

According to him, the current law prohibits acts intended to encourage alcohol consumption, either overtly or subtly. The law stipulates fines of up to 500,000 baht, and offenders could face a year’s imprisonment.

Boonyu Khorpornprasert, part of a sub-committee revising the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, observed that Padipat had undoubtedly used the controversial video to encourage alcohol consumption, thus infringing on the Act.

“Padipat was not being reasonable to assert that the law was unfair. If he disagreed with the Act, he should push for the law to be improved. But in the meantime, he must obey it as it is.”

Notably, he pointed out that the OACC can directly enforce the law against any politically active offender without relying on a petitioner for an ethics probe.

Two days ago, Padipat underscored the negative impact faced by local beer crafters due to the advertising ban on craft beers, which he indicated could potentially drive provincial economies. He proposed a revised definition of “advertisement” under the Act to decriminalise it, maintaining that producers have the right to reveal the contents of their craft beers to inform consumers about potential allergies.

Meanwhile, Boonyu admitted that the prevailing punishment under the Act was harsh. Still, he pointed out that major alcoholic product companies were exploiting loopholes to circumvent the law by showcasing their brand logos at sponsored sporting events.

Politics NewsThailand News

Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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