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Happy hour is over: Phuket New Year crackdown targets illegal alcohol sales, promotion

PHUKET: After a week of warnings issued to vendors of alcohol across the island, the Phuket Public Health Office (PPHO), acting on orders from Bangkok, now say they have no choice but to start legal action against those who continue to break the law involving the illegal sale and promotion of alcohol ahead of the New Year celebrations.

alcohol, tourism, crime, police, patong,

The Phuket News

Saturday 30 December 2017, 09:00AM

Health officials inspect one of the bars at the Chillva Market where public promotion of alcohol, especially through a promotion, were found to be illegal. Photo: The Phuket News
Health officials inspect one of the bars at the Chillva Market where public promotion of alcohol, especially through a promotion, were found to be illegal. Photo: The Phuket News

The crackdown this week has already seen one Super Cheap store south of Phuket Town and the bars at the popular Chillva Market in Samkong stand to have any licences to sell alcohol revoked as they are located too close to schools. (See story here.)

The campaign will now extend across the island, and include the bars and nightlife venues on Bangla Rd, Patong, confirmed Dr Prapa Nakara, who as Director of the PPHO’s Non-communicable Diseases division directly heads the enforcement of alcohol-related regulations on the island.

The PPHO launched the campaign softly Wednesday last week (Dec 20) by issuing a four-page “Request for Cooperation” to all business involved in the sale of alcohol on the island. The notices remind operators of the key provisions of the Alcohol Beverages Act 2008.

The provisions include the ban on “Happy Hours” and “two-for one” deals, and any promotion of alcohol to encourage people to drink. (See story here.)

However, the “Request for Cooperation”, also sent to every police station on the island calling for enforcement of the alcohol laws, remained as a friendly reminder only until yesterday (Dec 29), Dr Prapa said.

After Dec 29, the PPHO has been ordered to take legal action against any offenders caught breaking the law, she added.

“Also, any offenders caught will be reported to the Office of the Alcohol Control Committee in Bangkok,” Dr Prapa said.

However, the actual enforcement will be left to the police, Dr Prapa admitted.

“All of these provisions are for the local police to enforce. If the police do nothing, there is nothing the PPHO can do,” she said.

At the Chillva Market, health official Natpimon Na Nakorn pointed out that the operators were also operating in flagrant disregard of the alcohol promotion laws.

Ms Natpimon works our of the Ministry of Health’s Office of Prevention and Control of Disease Region 11 office in Nakhon Sri Thammarat, which also covers Phuket,

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The illuminated signs installed at the front of bars were deemed illegal as they were understood to be “in a public area”. Even an inflated balloon floating above the market was deemed to be in breach of the law, Ms Natpimon noted.

The fact that the whole market was on private land was overshadowed by the fact that the general public had access to the areas where the signs were posted, she explained.

The damning aspects of promotion were the “buy 3 get 1 free” discount promotion, which is plainly illegal under the law, Ms Natpimon noted.

“Even (alcohol brand) logos with a message that promotes a promotion for alcohol is illegal,” she added.

Ms Natpimon noted that that the presence of such staff as “pretties”, who are hired to attend venues to highlight specific alcohol brands to potential customers, were legal, but they were not to solicit or serve customers.

“They can only wait for the client to ask them. The can explain the price of the alcohol,” Ms Natpimon said.

Challenges the PPHO officers are already facing include the similarity of soda and mineral water brands which use identical logos to the beers produced by the same manufacturer, Dr Prapa admitted.

“We have also encountered difficulties enforcing the law on venues that are owned by influential people,” she said.

As for the issue of beer gardens, Dr Prapa said the main issue was the level of public access to the area.

“If the promotion extends outside the private area, then it is illegal,” she said.



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Kurt | 31 December 2017 - 13:00:36

Thai Officials 'Crackdowns' are no crackdowns. 
Has to be seen as:.." Corruption Street entrepreneur pays more tea money, and he will not be disturbed"..
After all, we Government Officials have to feed families, and have extra expenses during December month. Yes?

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Kurt | 31 December 2017 - 12:41:42

Touts, yes, annoying and a disgrace on Bangla Road.
Problem is, the Patong Police suppose to make sure the touts are not there.
The Police get paid for that.
But on top of their salary they get extra 'paid' not to see the touts.
And that explains everything.
Thai Officials, From the highest rank till the lowest, they know exactly what is going on everywhere on Phuket.
It is just conv...

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Timothy | 31 December 2017 - 09:27:32

Why don't they concentrate removing the annoying touts that are advertising not only drink, but sex shows as well? Try walking the length of Bangla and you get 20 or 30 of those idiots shoving their 'menus" in your face. They even do it to families walking with small children.   

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Andy | 30 December 2017 - 22:26:01

Dr Prapa Nakara is a classic puritan haunted by the fear that someone somewhere might be happy. 

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malczx7r | 30 December 2017 - 13:37:26

Panic over, the enforcement of the law will be down to the police, therefore no change, business as usual!

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CaptainJack | 30 December 2017 - 11:49:16

That they can't enforce the law against "influential people" highlights a far more serious problem in Thai society than the recreational consumption of alcohol.

Instead they argue over technicalities like soda-water brands and non-alcoholic beer when the only people they've actually managed to charge should never have been issued licenses to sell alcohol in the first place due...

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Kurt | 30 December 2017 - 10:32:18

The Law is the Law, yes, I agree. However in Thailand much of the time a hollow phrase, seen all the everywhere corrupt officials and a complete absence of Law enforcement in many fields.
And when there is a kind of Law enforcement you have to divide it in many ways:
Different Law enforcement for:
Thai and foreigners.
Rich thai people and poor thai people.

And indeed, the law enforcement by...

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Discover Thainess | 30 December 2017 - 10:20:39

We all understand that the law is the law, but with all the crimes, corruption and other issues in Phuket, is this really the most pressing issue to be dealt with?

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Kurt | 30 December 2017 - 09:28:24

Happy hours never will be over. It will be just silently rephrased.
After all, bars are competitors in these times, and are inventive to archive their goals.

It is insular 'off the world' thinking that a world wide existing Happy Hour phenomenon can be killed on Phuket.
Is that anyway government business?
How about to stop the 'sex ping-pong ball' shows first, to test governm...

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