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New debate over alcohol law

A beer garden in Bangkok in 2013. (Bangkok Post file photo)

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A debate over Thailand’s alcohol control law has resumed after hundreds of online users and operators were fined in recent months.

A Facebook user by the name of ผู้บริโภค has warned people about posting online about alcohol drinks after he was fined 50,000 baht in May for posting a photo.

He wrote that he was informed of the charge in writing — a letter had been sent to his address linked to his ID with details on when and where he was to give statements to officials.

On that date, he acknowledged the charge and was asked to pay a fine on the spot, with 50,000 baht the minimum. He was told he could refuse to pay and the case would be taken to court. But from what he knew, nobody did that.

Thailand has one of the strictest laws on alcohol advertisements.

On what type of content could cost you 50,000 to 500,000 baht in fines, Section 32 of the 2008 Alcoholic Beverage Control Act prohibits the following:

  • Posting a drink with the brand visible
  • Posting a bottle which makes it clear what brand it is
  • Encouraging people to drink
  • Posting properties of drinks
  • Showing appreciation or urging people to taste
  • Posting a beer glass with a brand on it
  • Translating news or writing about alcohol even though the drinks are not available in Thailand. Authorities view it could motivate people to fly to buy them.
  • While travelling, never post photos of alcohol drinks not sold in Thailand since it could make people crave them and try to buy them
  • Posting a gift with the logo or trademark of a drink even though the drink itself is not in the photo because it implies someone has bought the drinks.

It doesn’t matter when a post is made so long as it contains alcohol drinks, authorities can always charge you.

In any case, the Facebook user pointed out all of these depend on the discretion of officials. 

Last week, a group of restaurateurs, drinks retailers and craft beer fans submitted a letter to seek help from Move Forward MPs who are on the public health House panel. They claimed some 400 restaurateurs were summonsed because they informed people in social media they had reopened after the Covid-19 lockdown and listed their menus.

One of them claimed he was called because he described a beverage as “well-known”.

“Officials say the word is an exaggeration and the law gives them too much leeway in exercising their discretion. This, as well as a large fine, prevents small operators to compete with large ones,” said their representative.

During the lockdown, several of them also faced legal action for trying to sell alcoholic beverages online.   

The punishment is one year in jail and/or a fine not more than 500,000 baht, as well as a daily fine up to 50,000 baht until the offender fixes the problem.

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Vocabulary:

acknowledge : to accept or admit that something exists, is true or is real - ยอมรับ

appreciation : the feeling of being grateful for something - ความสำนึกบุญคุณ

brand : a type of product made by a particular company - ตรา, ยี่ห้อ

crave : to have a very strong desire for something - ปรารถนา, ต้องการ

discretion (noun): the freedom or power to decide what should be done in a particular situation - ความอิสระในการตัดสินใจ

encourage : to cause someone to want to do something - กระตุ้น ให้การสนับสนุน

exaggeration (noun): a statement or description that makes something seem larger, better, worse or more important than it really is; the act of making a statement like this - การกล่าวเกินจริง

fine : to be required to pay an amount of money because you have broken the law - ปรับเป็นเงิน

imply : to suggest that you think something without saying it directly - บอกเป็นนัย, แสดงนัย

leeway : being able to move around and not be constrained in movement or action; an area or a place that is empty or that can be moved about freely; space - ที่ว่าง

motivate : to cause to (want to) do something - ทำให้มีแรงจูงใจ

prohibit : to not allow; to ban - ห้าม

refuse (verb): to say or show that you will not do something; to say or show that you will not do something that someone has asked you to do - ปฏิเสธ

restaurateur : someone who owns or manages a restaurant - เจ้าของร้านอาหาร

statement : a formal written/spoken account of events that a person who has seen a crime or who has been accused of a crime gives to the police - คำให้การ

strict : demanding that rules are obeyed; very careful and exact - เข้มงวด

summons (verb): to officially order someone to come to a place - เรียกตัว

visible : able to be seen - ที่มองเห็นได้

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