Key figures in the election-winning Move Forward Party (MFP) have voiced their opposition to the government's ban on alcohol sales on important Buddhism-related holidays, saying it limits freedom.
MFP executive Amarat Chokpamitkul used social media to express her opposition to the ban on Saturday, Vesak Day, which commemorates the Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death.
Ms Amarat wrote that she disagreed with the ban on alcoholic drink sales on Buddhism-related days because the country's constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and people of other faiths besides Buddhism live in Thailand.
Buddhism urges people to refrain from alcohol consumption to prevent recklessness and misbehaviour. According to the ban – which exempts liquor sales at duty-free shops at airports – violators are liable to a jail term of up to six months and/or a fine of up to 10,000 baht.
Ms Amarat wrote that such a ban was rare in other countries and authorities should impose other measures to control alcohol consumption, such as enforcing drink-driving laws.
The country has followers of other religions and supports freedom of religious belief, Ms Amarat wrote.
Bangkok Move Forward MP-elect Thaopipop Limjitakon, who earlier proposed a law to end the monopoly in the alcohol drink business, wrote that basing the alcohol sales ban on a religious belief affects freedom of religion and occupation under the constitution.
Meanwhile, Songkran Pakchokdee, director of the Stop Drink network, said the country had the alcohol sales ban in accordance with the World Health Organization’s guideline that an alcohol sales ban on religious days were effective measures to control access to sources of alcohol beverages because they were not costly.
“The measure is intended to limit access to the sources of alcohol sales, not to infringe on the rights of drinkers because you can store your drinks at home,” he said.
“No one (else) complained about this matter. Although Buddhists are not everyone in Thailand, they form 95% (of the population). I believe the majority do not have any problem,” Mr Songkran said.