The Move Forward Party (MFP) is making a strong case against the bans on selling alcoholic beverages during Buddhist holidays, asserting that such prohibitions encroach upon individual freedoms. MFP executive Amarat Chokpamitkul has taken to social media to express her disagreement with the ban, citing a contradiction with Thailand’s constitution, which guarantees the right to practice religions other than Buddhism. According to Chokpamitkul, the ban unduly restricts the freedom of those who do not adhere to Buddhism, as many other religions do not discourage the consumption of alcohol.
In Thailand, the ban is enforced during significant Buddhist holidays like Vesak, and violators face penalties of up to six months in prison, a fine of up to 10,000 baht, or both. In total, there are five Buddhist holidays each year during which the sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited.
Amarat Chokpamitkul has proposed an alternative approach, suggesting that authorities shift their focus towards enforcing laws against drunk driving to prevent alcohol-related accidents. She argues that instead of imposing bans, which are not commonly seen in most other countries, alternative measures should be explored.
Phetchawat Wattanapongsirikul, a candidate for the Pheu Thai Party, responded to the MFP’s call to lift the alcohol ban by advocating for its continuation. Wattanapongsirikul asserts that the ban is necessary to prevent road accidents caused by drunk driving. He supports his argument by pointing to the high number of arrests related to drunk driving during the recent Songkran festival.
The MFP has been actively pushing for a “progressive liquor bill” aimed at amending the Excise Tax Act. The party seeks to break the monopoly held by large corporations in the alcoholic beverage industry and facilitate the entry of small-scale producers. However, the bill faced rejection in the House of Representatives last year.
Critics of the existing regulations argue that they favor larger breweries and pose obstacles for small alcohol makers. The MFP has criticized these regulations for impeding competition and hindering the growth of small-scale producers. In response, the government has defended the regulations, stating that they are necessary to ensure the quality of alcoholic drinks available in the market.