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Thailand: Alcohol Banned Near Educational Institutions

(Aug. 14, 2015) On July 22, 2015, the Office of the Prime Minister of Thailand issued an amendment to the country’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Act. It will enter into force 30 days after publication. (Note to Readers: Clarification on New Laws Curbing Alcohol Sales in Thailand, KHAOSOD ENGLISH (July 27, 2015); Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, B.E. 2551 (2008) (Feb. 6, 2008), THAI LAW FORUM.) Under the amended Act, alcohol may not be sold “within 300 meters of the ‘fence’ of universities and colleges, both public and private. Lower schools are not included in the ban.” (Note to Readers: Clarification on New Laws Curbing Alcohol Sales in Thailand, supra.) The ban does not apply to “hotels, ‘entertainment zones,’ and wholesale factories and distributors” (id.), but bars, clubs and retailers will be affected it. (Thailand: Thailand Leading Asia in Cracking Down on Drinking, BANGKOK POST ONLINE (July 23, 2015), Open Source Center online subscription database, ID No. SER2015072319816974.)

In addition, on July 23, Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who also heads the ruling junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), issued a separate order, effectively immediately, prohibiting the sale of alcohol “in the ‘vicinity’ of ‘educational institutions’ and student dormitories.” (Note to Readers: Clarification on New Laws Curbing Alcohol Sales in Thailand, supra.) The power to issue such an order is based on section 44 of Thailand’s interim Constitution. (Id.; Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand (Interim), B.E. 2557 (2014) (July 22, 2014), ISRANEWS AGENCY; Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand (Interim) Act, B.E. 2557, Amendment (No. 1) B.E. 2558, 132:64 ROYAL THAI GOVERNMENT GAZETTE (July 15, 2015) (in Thai).) The order does not specify the scope of “vicinity” or “educational institutions,” but “the latter is defined in existing laws as including all levels of education, such as elementary schools and high schools.” (Note to Readers: Clarification on New Laws Curbing Alcohol Sales in Thailand, supra.) How the order will be applied remains unclear. (Id.)

According to the Ministry of Public Health, “[t]he measures are aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle and tackling alcohol-related problems, including underage sex.” (Thailand: Thailand Leading Asia in Cracking Down on Drinking, supra.) Reportedly, “Thailand is moving further than other governments in countering growing demand for alcohol in Asia and the Pacific …,” and, according to Professor Juergen Rehm of the University of Toronto’s School of Public Health, “has the strongest tradition of trying to curb alcohol consumption and reduce alcohol related harms.” (Id.) Rehm added that the Thai government’s alcohol taxation mechanism “enables them to tax the hell out of any beverage which is attractive to youth.” (Id.)