PHUKET: In a hastily arranged press conference, the Ministry of Interior has announced a month-long ban of alcohol sales throughout Phuket, effective today.
Vice Minister Dumwrong Raknaa told the Gazette that the booze ban will, in one clean swoop, further the Ministry’s dual aims of celebrating the nation’s return to democracy and promoting traditional Thai values.
As Thailand’s face to the world, Phuket will be an important testing ground for a possible nationwide trial prohibition period of 90 days, tentatively scheduled to kick off on New Year’s Eve 2008.
Asked why the ban would be imposed coinciding with the usually boisterous Songkran Festival celebrations, V/Min Dumwrong said, “Tourists don’t want to see people drinking, throwing water around or having uncontrolled fun. This is as important to the development of the country as the One Tambon One Product initiative. In fact, we’d like to call this our One Village One Vice project.”
A number of alternative activities are being planned. “People who would normally while away their time and liver tissue by drinking are invited to learn about our great cultural traditions, such as fruit carving and basket weaving,” he said.
Free activity stations will be set up along Soi Bangla, Soi Paradise and other major nightlife entertainment areas, he added.
Police spokesman Col Onanong “On” Thetake said police welcomed the move. “We were suffering from crackdown confusion. We kept getting the days mixed up regarding when we were supposed to enforce alcohol bans during election periods, what time of day retailers were allowed to sell alcohol, closing times on bars and pubs….” he said.
“Running the ban continuously for 30 days will eliminate any further confusion on all these issues,” he added.
Coinciding with the ban is an announcement declaring a national April Fuel Day, during which all citizens will be encouraged to save energy and support alternative fuel initiatives.
Bar owners in particular are urged to contribute to the program by donating stockpiles of unconsumed beer, wine and spirits to the Ministry, for conversion into fuel.
Several Patong Municipality officials have already volunteered to handle the collection of alcohol donations. Pickup trucks will be stationed at collection points along the beach road, Rat-U-Thit 200 Pi Rd and Soi Bangla. The vehicles will be readily identifiable by their blue flashing undercarriage lights and dark windows.
Club & Restaurant Association of Patong (CRAP) spokesperson Lars DeWindger said, “This is an outrage. The only way these guys are getting any of my beer is by prying the bottle out of my cold, dead hand!”
He added that he was planning to organize street protests in the heart of Patong.
“There will be placards. Marching bar girls, angry club owners and more fuming katoey than have ever been assembled in one place at one time will come together as one to demand fairness. Our traditional way of life is being put at risk,” he said.
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