Anutin promises no 4am curfew; Tourism Ministry suggests Bangla Road trial

FILE PHOTO: The Ministry of Public Health opposes a 4am curfew while the Ministry of Tourism is asking for a trial run on Bangla Road.

The chances of a 4am national nightlife curfew are looking dim. Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul says his ministry strongly opposes the measure. Meanwhile, proponent Minister of Tourism and Sports Pipat Ratchakitprakarn has reduced his campaign from a nationwide extension to just making Bangla Road in Phuket a pilot area for the 4am curfew.

The Ministry of Tourism had previously aimed to at least allow the most popular tourist nightlife spots in Thailand to be open until 4am. They had hoped that compromise would be enough to get the cabinet to consider and possibly approve the proposal in a meeting today.

The further compromise to just focus on the biggest nightlife spot in Phuket was offered because the party area was ready to seamlessly transition into a later closing time. The Bangkok Post pointed out that the vast majority of customers in the area are international tourists, so piloting a programme there would have the greatest effect.

The Tourism Minister asked the government to give them 6 months to show that the 4am curfew would boost revenue by 25% for nightlife and entertainment venues. Economic studies showed that the latest hours of the night are when tourists spend the most money at bars and clubs.

He acknowledged the possibility of risk. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Committee refused the request to extend the sale hours of alcohol, citing a projected 27% increase in road accidents and an extra 10 to 20 deaths per day. The Tourism Minister wants a chance to disprove this and says that 4am nightlife is the only hope to hit the tourism revenue targets the government set out for next year.

“As the government set the 2023 tourism revenue target at 80% of the 2019 level, but the arrivals target at only 50% of the 2019 level, we should have an attractive mechanism to boost spending per person. Night entertainment is the only promising choice we have at the moment.”

On the other side of the argument, Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul assuaged civic groups that opposed the 4am curfew, promising about 50 representatives on Monday at Government House that there will not be a nightlife extension, despite the tourism benefits. He says the Ministry of Public Health believes that later hours will only provoke drunk driving and binge drinking.

He acknowledges that it will generate tourism revenue, but he said a 4am curfew is unsustainable and damaging to Thailand’s general public health. He called on tourism operators to let go of the idea of two extra hours for entertainment and nightlife venues being the solution to boosting profit from tourists.

With tourism and nightlife industry workers and representatives desperately advocating for the 4am curfew, and government agencies and wellness advocates staunchly opposed to it, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will head the National Alcoholic Beverage Policy Committee to review the proposal on December 22.

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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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