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Thai Tourism

Alcohol ban will hurt Thai tourism, says president

Tom Aikins,  Apr 01, 2009

The Thai government is currently under pressure from anti-alcohol groups in the country to ban all alcohol sales in the country during the Thai New Year Songkran holiday April 11 -15.

The groups are urging this ban in an attempt to reduce the number of holiday fatalities that are caused by drunk driving during the country’s biggest holiday. More than 30,000 people are killed or injured on Thailand’s roads during the annual Songkran festivities.

However, since the overwhelming percentage of people who die on the roads during this period are Thai teenagers driving motorcycles and overloaded pick up trucks racing along the highways while drunk, a reasonable question to ask may be, “How can banning alcohol sales to foreign tourists in hotels help to reduce the number of dead Thai teenagers all over Thailand?”

Indeed, it’s more than a reasonable question since a ban on alcohol sales would have almost no effect on the number of deaths. There are a number of quite obvious reasons.

Firstly, banning alcohol sales on these particular days would just cause people to buy alcohol prior to the banned period. They will, in other words, simply stock up before the ban.

Secondly, since many of the people dying are getting drunk on home-made whiskey and other forms of “moonshine,” how is banning sales of legal alcohol going to help?

Thirdly, how will this be enforced? Do the anti-alcohol groups think that storeowners across the country are going to voluntarily stop selling alcohol during one of their most lucrative periods? Are the police going to camp out at every store in the country that sells beer and Thai whiskey and make sure that no sales are made?

Are the owners of hotels supposed to empty their minibars during this period so that no guest could drink anything on these days? Who’s going to enforce that? Are the police going to spend all of their time running around to every bar and restaurant and karaoke parlor around the country looking for people drinking illegally? Will the police also be willing to stop drinking and smoking across the countries hotels, guest houses, bars and restaurants?

The ban could probably be enforced to a degree in Bangkok and other large population centers but the problem isn’t in these places. It’s upcountry. So where is the benefit going to come from by banning alcohol sales to tourists and other people that are at no risk whatsoever? The people behind this measure obviously don’t care about the real reasons behind alcohol abuse and the real way to combat it.

Education and parental involvement are what is needed to end the carnage, but that isn’t something that is popular. Banning sales is far more newsworthy and frankly easier than trying to resolve the real challenges.

As an example of some of the negative consequences that will occur if this ban is implemented, is that the tourism industry suffer yet another setback in its attempt to claw back from the nightmare of the Suvarnabhumi closing in November. The economy is bad enough and tourists are hard enough to come by already without placing additional burdens on the Tourism industry.

The government has delayed this measure while it seeks compromise solutions and they may just delay long enough so that it becomes too late to really do anything. There is also the matter of constitutionality which is being looked into. A ban might simply be illegal. What ever the reason they come up with the government must not accede to the wishes of a few fanatics whose commitment to solving problems consists of ideas that do more harm than good to society as a whole. For the good of everyone this ban must be stopped in its tracks and real efforts that have a chance of solving the basic problem should be initiated instead.

Alcohol ban will hurt Thai tourism, says president
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