Bill to allow small distilleries passes first reading

Bill to allow small distilleries passes first reading

Activists campaign for changes to the law to allow small distillers to enter the market, outside the parliament in Bangkok in February. (Photo: Pornprom Satrabhaya)
Activists campaign for changes to the law to allow small distillers to enter the market, outside the parliament in Bangkok in February. (Photo: Pornprom Satrabhaya)

The House passed the first reading of a bill that will allow small-scale distillers, by 178 votes to 137, on Wednesday night.

The bill to amend the Excise Tax Act to permit the market entry of small-scale distillers was proposed by a group of Move Forward Party MPs led by Taopiphop Limjittrakorn (Bangkok).

Before the vote, Prime Minister's Office Minister Anucha Nakasai said the government and the Excise Department disagreed with the amending bill because existing ministerial regulations could be changed to allow small distillers to operate, and the government could then continue to control the quality and quantity of liquor production.

The Department of Disease Control also expressed concern about possible contamination in substandard liquor.

Mr Taopiphop said in reply that the government should not block small distillers.

Other MPs supported him, saying the amendment bill would allow people and small business operators to produce liquor, the value of farm produce would thus increase, the problem of low farm prices would be eased and there would be a diversity of liquor products from different localities.

They also said the constitution secured the people's right to make a living, and any attempt to stop people from producing liquor would be unconstitutional.

The House debated the bill for about two hours. Then a representative from the Finance Ministry said that it would take about three months to change relevant ministerial regulations, and conditions on licence applications and capital requirements would have to be changed.

The House passed the bill in the first reading by 178 votes to 137 with 15 abstentions. MPs applauded, cheered and hugged Mr Taopiphop.

The bill would liberalise liquor production and allow small-scale producers to enter the market.

The current law requires private individuals starting a liquor business to obtain permission from the director-general of the Excise Department to own a still. Present regulations also require distillers to have a large amount of registered capital.

If passed by parliament, the amendment would revise the regulations to make it easier for small-scale distillers to operate their business.

Mr Taopiphop earlier said if the bill saw the light of day, small-scale producers of liquor would have a chance to develop their products commercially. It would also enable them to come up with their own distillation recipes, harnessing locally harvested ingredients.

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