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Politics

Junta's booze ban foments industry backlash

BANGKOK -- Thailand's alcohol industry is claiming that enforcement of a new regulation proscribing the sale of alcohol within 300 meters of all schools and academic institutions will cost 125,000 jobs and 115 billion baht ($3.3 billion) in lost sales.

     The draft regulation was approved by the military government's National Alcohol Control Committee on July 10 and is now awaiting approval from Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. After he signs off, the regulation will be enforced within 30 days.

     "The declaration has no regard for its total impact," said the Thai Alcohol Beverage Business Association (TABBA), which represents six companies including Diageo Moet Hennessy (Thailand) and Bacardi (Thailand) in a statement issued on July 14.

     TABBA President Thanakorn Kuptajit told the Nikkei Asian Review that the association will be submitting a petition to the government to reconsider.

     "The 300-meter rule does not tackle the root cause because it only bans the sales of alcohol and not the consumption," said Thanakorn. He contends that regulations prohibiting the sale of alcohol to anyone under 20 should be enough.
Thanakorn also believes the National Alcohol Control Committee should have consulted the business sector before drawing up any new rules.

     Thailand's stepped-up alcohol regulation has adversely affected the industry in recent years. Retailers may only sell alcohol between 11am and 2pm, and after 5pm. Street sales have been banned completely, including at food stalls.

     Lately, there has been increased concern about the drinking habits of young students, particularly near campuses and dormitories. A fatal crash caused by a drunken student in May triggered a move by the military government to stricter regulation, according to Thanakorn.

     Major shopping malls in central Bangkok, including Siam Paragon and MBK Center, will be affected by the 300-meter rule due to their proximity to universities and vocational schools.

     "This will most definitely hurt tourism too," said Thanakorn. He expects other associations and businesses will submit petitions to the government.

     "The chances that the government will reconsider are very slim," he said.

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