Confusion reigns in Phuket over alcohol ban

PHUKET: Following a Cabinet resolution late last month banning alcohol sales on Buddhist holidays, the province is “asking for co-operation” from nightlife entertainment operators in closing on July 7 and 8 – but local leaders say they have yet to receive any formal orders making closure an official requirement.

Tuesday, July 7 is Asarnha Bucha Day, and July 8 the first day of Buddhist Lent (Khao Phansa).

The Thai Cabinet has declared Monday, July 6 to Wednesday, July 8 to be holidays for government workers, while July 7 and 8 will also be bank holidays.

Phuket City Police Deputy Superintendent Chaiwat Auykham said bars in Phuket City have been asked to close for the two days, but that “enforcement” of the voluntary ban in other police districts was up to the police who have jurisdiction there.

Speaking from Surat Thani, Kathu Police Superintendent Grissak Songmoonark told the Gazette that bar operators in Patong have already agreed to close down on Asarnha Bucha Day, when a host of religious and team-building activities have been arranged by the Patong Entertainment Business Association (PEBA).

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As for July 8, Col Grissak said bar owners would be “asked” to cooperate with the no-alcohol ban, as they have in years past.

However, Col Grissak said his station had yet to receive any official orders from the district office formally banning alcohol sales on that day.

Kathu Assistant District Officer (Palad) Jatoopong Kaewsai said his office had yet to receive any orders from the province banning alcohol sales on the two days.

It appears that despite the cabinet resolution, no official orders banning alcohol sales have made their way through the Interior Ministry to the province.

An officer at the Phuket Public Relations Office seemed to confirm this by saying, “It’s not possible to close every pub, especially in popular tourist destinations like Patong, but most of them usually co-operate.”

One foreign bar operator on Patong’s Soi Kebsup told the Gazette he planned to close on July 7 and reopen on July 8, but with no alcohol sales.

Whether bars open or not is somewhat of a moot point because there are so few tourists around at the moment, he said.

“It’s completely dead at the moment, worse than it was right after the tsunami,” he said.

— Stephen Fein & Atchaa Khamlo

Phuket News
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