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Phuket Opinion: A sobering approach

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PHUKET: Recent reports of “sobering new alcohol laws” by some English-language news outlets have led to a great deal of bar-stool conversation, as well as speculation among social media.

The truth of the matter is that the Alcohol Sales Act of 2008, and subsequent ministerial regulations, have remained completely unchanged since the National Council of Peace and Order (NCPO) took power.

Despite the distorted views some foreign news-consumers may be receiving about our tourism industry, the reality is that Phuket remains a choice location for imbibers – and in all likelihood will remain so for the foreseeable future.

While stricter enforcement has been bruited, Phuket has yet to see any significant increase in the number of arrests for such violations; nor have any local law enforcement agencies reported specific directives to conduct crackdowns.

The same is true of sensationalistic reports and subsequent speculation that enforcement of the 2am closing time in Patong will be the death knell for the nightlife industry in that town.

The real goal of the NCPO is laudable: to end systematic corruption. The fact that they are willing to take on the “untouchables” has been made clear with a series of arrest warrants issued for some of the most well-known political figures on the island (story here).

Hopefully the on-going probe will also result in warrants being issued for the many state officials who allegedly colluded with them, using their positions for personal gain – and turning the island’s tourism industry into an environmentally unsustainable laughing stock. Only when this happens can the current anti-corruption drive be seen as a true success, one with a real chance of transforming Thailand into a more civil society under its next civilian administration.

Thailand’s strict regulations on alcohol and tobacco advertising have won praise from international bodies including the World Health Organization in recent years. Sadly, enforcement of these measures, especially in “mom-and-pop shops” in more rural areas, remains virtually non-existent.

Just one example is the law forbidding the sale of “individual” cigarettes. Not only do these shops continue to sell them in this way, but an entire industry producing plastic bags expressly for this purpose continues to thrive.

All of this pales in comparison to the fact that these shops continue to sell cigarettes and alcohol to minors. Many countries have effectively restricted minors’ access to booze and cigarettes; if Thailand is ever to join their ranks, now is the time to do it.

 

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