National No Alcohol Day coincides with “Khao Pansa” (entering Pansa), an auspicious Buddhist holiday celebrated across southeast Asia. Khao Pansa marks the first day of “Vassa,” the 3 month Buddhist Rains Retreat.
For three months, Buddhist monks and nuns will remain in one place, usually their temple grounds, to focus on studying Buddhist texts and practising meditation. In October, after three months, the monastics will come out from their temples and Thailand will celebrate “Ok Pansa” (exiting Pansa).
The sale of alcohol is banned on several Buddhist holidays in Thailand every year. However, Khao Pansa was declared by PM Prayut to be the country’s official National No Alcohol Day in 2017, because it marks the start of a three-month period in which many Thais give something up, such as alcohol, eating meat, or smoking.
Although Buddhism predates Christianity by almost six centuries, the three-month Vassa retreat has been given the nickname “Buddhist Lent” for its similarities to its Christian counterpart.
Every year, PM Prayut writes a motto for Thais to ponder on National Alcohol Day. This year, the motto is “No Alcohol, No Disease, No Covid-19.”
The motto is almost identical to PM Prayut’s National No Alcohol Day motto for 2021, which was “Don’t drink alcohol, stay far from Covid-19, life will be safe.”
In 2020, the motto was “Look after your life, don’t get addicted to alcohol” and 2019’s motto was “Reduce or quit alcohol, bring your family to happiness.”
Under Thai law, anyone found to be selling alcohol today, or on any of Thailand’s important Buddhist holidays, are liable to a prison sentence of up to six months, a fine of 10,000 baht, or both.
Realistically, any non-religious person who is not celebrating Khao Pansa might choose to illegally buy alcohol from a small vendor if they can find one selling it. However, chain convenience stores like 7-Eleven will not be selling alcohol, so there is no point in asking.
The sale of alcohol is also banned in Thailand on Makha Bucha Day, Visakha Bucha Day, Asahna Bucha Day, and Ok Pansa. The exact dates change every year according to the lunar calendar.
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