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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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