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Government Weighs Lifting Afternoon Alcohol Sales Ban to Bolster Tourism

In a potential game-changer for Thailand’s tourism sector, Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew is poised to propose the reconsideration of the enduring prohibition on alcohol sales between 2 pm and 5 pm. The Thai Alcohol Beverage Business Association (TABBA) has urged the government to eliminate this rule, citing its impediment to tourism promotion policies.

Dr. Cholnan, as the chair of the alcoholic beverage control committee, plans to facilitate a discussion on TABBA’s petition. Notably, the afternoon ban, dating back to a 1972 announcement by a coup-maker, is not an integral part of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act. Dr. Cholnan emphasized that a comprehensive evaluation is required to assess the impact on tourism if the ban is lifted.

A source within the committee anticipates a decision by the next meeting scheduled for February 15. Despite TABBA’s proposal aligning with the government’s tourism objectives, concerns have been raised about potential risks, particularly to minors, necessitating the implementation of stricter measures.

Should the alcohol beverage control panel endorse TABBA’s plea, the decision will be forwarded to the national alcoholic beverage policy committee for final approval, typically chaired by the prime minister or a deputy. If the national committee endorses the plan, a new announcement by the Ministry of Health will permit the sale of alcoholic beverages between 2 pm and 5 pm, potentially in effect by early April, just in time for the Songkran festival.

TABBA’s adviser, Thanakorn Kuptajit, highlighted the impact of the afternoon ban on entertainment businesses, citing its interference with the recent regulation allowing extended opening hours until 4 am in Bangkok, Phuket, and Chon Buri. TABBA contends that the ban hampers tourism promotion efforts, urging the government to reinforce legal measures against alcohol-related road accidents and illegal sales to individuals under 20 years old.

The looming Thai-Chinese visa-free scheme, effective from March 1, has heightened interest among Chinese tourists, making the relaxation of alcohol controls a potential catalyst for increased tourism-related income. TABBA emphasizes the need to align regulations with the government’s tourism promotion goals, citing the afternoon alcohol ban as an example.

In a petition submitted to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, Deputy Prime Minister Somsak Thepsutin, and Dr. Cholnan, TABBA asserts that adjustments to regulations hindering tourism are crucial. The outcome of this proposal could mark a significant shift in Thailand’s approach to alcohol sales, impacting both local businesses and the broader tourism industry.

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