Cabinet to review bill on small distilleries

Cabinet to review bill on small distilleries

Bill frees up rules for local operators

People listen to live music at a protest outside parliament on Wednesday, demanding changes to the law to make it easier for small-scale distilleries to operate, as a bill was proposed to change the rules on liquor production. (Photo: Pornprom Satrabhaya)
People listen to live music at a protest outside parliament on Wednesday, demanding changes to the law to make it easier for small-scale distilleries to operate, as a bill was proposed to change the rules on liquor production. (Photo: Pornprom Satrabhaya)

MPs on Wednesday voted to let the cabinet examine a bill seeking to liberalise liquor production and allow small-scale producers to enter the market.

The MPs voted 207 to 196 with two abstentions and three no votes to refer the bill amending the Excise Tax Act to cabinet before it is returned to the House for a vote on whether to admit it at its first reading.

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.

If passed by parliament, the amendment, sponsored by Thaopipob Limjirakorn, a Move Forward Party MP for Bangkok, would revise the regulations to make it easier for small-scale distillers to operate their businesses.

The vote to refer the bill was deferred from last week when a lack of quorum forced the House session to end abruptly.

Earlier, PM's Office Minister Anucha Nakasai represented the cabinet in promising to have the cabinet look at the bill. However, the vote to implement the promise was adjourned due to the quorum problem.

After receiving the bill, the cabinet will have 60 days to scrutinise the detail before returning it to the House for a vote on whether to accept it at the first stage.

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

It would also improve local liquor-making standards and generate income for locals.

The MP called on the government to listen to the public and straighten out the problem.

Thanakorn Thuamsa-ngiam, a member of the Thalufah and Prachachon Beer (Beer People) group, said the existing law is not conducive for local distillers to survive in the business and establish a brand that meets the legally-stipulated quality.

"The bill would allow us, ordinary people, to have a shot at producing liquor and make a viable business from it," he said.

Mr Thanakorn said the current regulations set the minimum, legally-permissible volume of liquor to be produced at too high a level.

Only a few large companies can operate in an environment made so hostile to the "little people", he said.

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