PATONG: About 150 people from Patong’s entertainment industry met today to discuss measures to oppose government proposals to close the country’s nightlife at midnight. Hundreds more are expected to take part in a full-scale protest at 3 pm on Saturday. Talk of preemptive closures of bars in Patong from 1 am on January 19 was denied by local police as “just a rumor” but an earlier closing time is nevertheless anticipated in the coming weeks. The Cabinet postponed a decision yesterday on the proposed new closing time pending investigation by a panel chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Purachai Piemsomboon. Any change to the existing 2 am closing-time is now likely to be imposed from March 1. Entertainment industry leaders fear that a midnight clampdown will keep tourists from coming to Thailand and will cost the island hundreds of jobs, and all to no avail – they believe it will fail in its stated aim of protecting young people from drugs and other vices. Today, bar owners and bar workers met in a large room on the fourth floor of Patong Hospital under the banner of the Patong Entertainment Association (PEA) to discuss the likely effects of a midnight closure and to plan action to block imposition. A petition will be taken up at the football field opposite Loma Park on the Patong beach road from 3 pm on Saturday. PEA President Sompetch Moosopon told today’s meeting, “Everyone here is going to be affected by this new order, not just workers but also their families.” Chairat Sukabal, owner of the Safari Pub, said, “Why do we have to have this [midnight closing]? Singapore is a place where entertainment venues operate 24/7. What about here?” He added that jobs would also be lost among street vendors and motorcycle taxi riders, and in shopping malls and restaurants. Poonsan Sanchan, president of the Patong Gay Association, said, “Gays from all around the world are coming to Phuket between January 29 and 31 for the Phuket Pride Festival, so why does the goverment need to chase them home by closing at midnight? “The government should listen to us. Senior government staff look on us as evil, but ‘evils’ bring in money.” Pol Lt Col Jarat Jessadawan, Deputy Superintendent of Patong Police Station, and Pol Capt Sanakorn Manmuang, Sub-Inspector of Patong Police Station, both said that they had received no instructions from the Ministry of Interior in Bangkok to close venues early.
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