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Opinion: Positive effects of alcohol zones

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Pairuch Kulima, 54, has been the chief of the Phuket Excise Office (PEO) since 2011. He is a Phuket native and graduated with a master’s degree in public administration from The National Institute of Development Administration.

Here he talks about the responsibilities of the PEO, the pros and cons of selling alcohol and the positive effects that the new alcohol ban will have on Phuket.

PHUKET: Selling alcohol is a double-edged sword, as it has both good and bad effects on society and impacts the image of Phuket as a tourist destination.

First, let me explain what the PEO does.

We are not the ones who control the number of bars and shops selling alcohol. Our duty is to simply collect alcohol and cigarette taxes, arrest those who import items without paying the tax, and give permission and licensing rights to businesses that want to sell cigarettes or alcohol. Basically, we provide permits to businesses and make sure that they have paid the proper taxes to do so.

Unfortunately, we cannot limit or control the number of shops selling these items here on the island. That is the job of other offices, such as the Public Health Office, Provincial Office, District and Municipality offices and the police.

If a shop-owner comes to us and fulfills the proper criteria to sell alcohol and cigarettes, we will issue them a permit. Before the new law was enforced, all a person needed was an ID card, their business registration and the location of their business. We would then issue them a permit if their shop was not next to a temple, school or gas station.

This is the main reason that we have issued thousands of permits, meaning there are thousands of shops out there selling alcohol.

One good effect of this is the income that it brings to the island through sales and taxation.

In terms of tourism, this provides a lot of income. The number of shops is not the problem if we can make sure that they are controllable and legal. It’s good for tourism if tourists have convenient choices available to buy from.

However, some may claim that Phuket is an island swimming in alcohol. It does not give Phuket a good image if we sell alcohol at any location to anyone who wants it. So far, police and other relevant offices are doing their best to keep it under control, but they still have no right to reduce the number of shops or close them if they have not done anything illegal.

In this respect, I think that the new alcohol ban is very helpful. It is not only about preventing shops near educational institutions from selling alcohol, but it can directly make our job, as well as others’, easy in the future.

Shops selling alcohol will be in zones and it will become a more concentrated area for us to control. The number will also be reduced, as we will not provide permits to those located near educational institutions.

Even though at this point we are still having problems defining ‘nearby’ and ‘educational institution’, I think we will be able to find a solution soon.

This will help Phuket become well organized – alcohol should be in an alcohol zone, not a school zone and tourists can still enjoy buying alcohol while enabling us to collect the tax. I think that it’s the best solution to balance both the pros and cons.

As far as arrests related to people importing and selling alcohol and cigarettes without paying the proper taxes are concerned, the PEO makes only about 10 a year, mostly involving hotels or big businesses, and even that is levied on about 10 to 20 bottles of alcohol.

I think the reason for our low arrest rate is due to the fact that we are an island. Everything that comes here has to go through either the Tah Chat Chai checkpoint or airport security.

At the PEO, we will continue to do our best to help Phuket become a place where alcohol sales are controlled. We regularly check up on permits and are looking out for those who illegally smuggle in goods without paying the proper tax.

I am very happy and excited about the new ban, as it will not only help Phuket’s image, but will help all concerned offices to work more efficiently.

— Kongleaphy Keam

 

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