Thailand sends out ‘volunteers’ to enforce booze ban during Lent

Library image

More than one million so-called volunteers have been dispatched nationwide to campaign to stop young drinkers during Buddhist Lent.

Wisit Tangnapakorn, director-general of the Health Service Support Department under the Ministry of Public Health, said the department launched the campaign to discourage young people from drinking during the Buddhist Lent period, which lasts three months.

Yesterday was Asarnha Bucha Day and today is Buddhist Lent Day.

A cabinet resolution on July 8, 2008, made Buddhist Lent Day a national no-alcohol day.

According to the Alcohol Act 2008, no alcohol is allowed to be sold on four religious days, including Buddhist Lent Day and Asarnha Bucha Day. Violators may face a jail term of up to six months and/or a fine of up to 10,000 baht.

The law also forbids selling alcohol to anyone under 20. Violators may face a jail term of up to one year and/or a fine up to 20,000 baht.

The volunteers will also ensure retailers do not violate the law and do not sell alcohol on the day, especially to those under 20, said Dr Wisit.

Nipon Chinanonwet, director of the Office of Alcohol Control Committee, said his inspection teams were sent out yesterday to educate business operators. Some of them still put alcoholic beverages on display in their stores, which is against the Alcohol Act.

Meanwhile, Wisanu Sritawong, public policy planning manager of the Stop Drinking Network (SDN), and 35 volunteers submitted a letter to national police chief Chaktip Chaijinda demanding stricter measures against selling alcohol on the two important religious days.

The group also demanded an upgrade of the act to ban alcohol sales during the entire three-month Buddhist Lent.

Alcohol sales have been banned on Asarnha Bucha and Buddhist Lent days. But according to the SDN’s close watch in the past few years, some small grocery stores and food shops have violated the law and sold alcohol.

Although most department stores and convenience stores strictly follow the law which prevents them from selling alcohol on religious days, some hotel operators mistakenly think they are exempt and can sell alcoholic beverages on religious days, he said.

Mr Wisanu said hotels are not exempt and he wanted the police to update business operators, especially hoteliers, about the law.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha encouraged Buddhist Thais to practise Buddhism on the religious days and strictly follow the precepts.

The prime minister also said people going out of town to make merit should drive with care.

According to the government, the private sector forecasts the religious holidays to generate more than 6.2 billion baht, or a 7.78% increase, compared to the same period of last year. The forecast is the highest in six years. – Bangkok Post

CANDLES OF FAITH: Buddhist worshippers join a candlelight ceremony held at Wat Rajabopit in Bangkok to mark Asarnha Bucha Day yesterday. The event, in which people walk clockwise around the temple’s main hall, is a symbol to pay their respects to the Lord Buddha.

You can follow BangkokJack on Facebook & Twitter. Email tips and suggestions to info@albertjack.com – Feel free to comment on story below

AlbertJack.Com