There Is NO Alcohol Crackdown

A group of Chiang Mai health officials opened their mouths and let their bellies rumble at the start of the week at a meeting they held for hoteliers and members of the media regarding a crackdown on advertising and promotion of alcohol laws, causing a week of rumours and speculation sprinkled with enormous amounts of bullshit.

The aim of the meeting was to clarify current laws and give warning as to their immediate enforcement. Below are the key areas the “crackdown” would target:

– No drinking allowed after midnight in bars or restaurants

– A ban on “beer girls”

– Health warnings on all alcohol products

– A ban on the use of used bottles of alcohol for decoration

– An end to happy hours

– A ban on promoting alcohol through word of mouth

– A ban on alcohol-branded glasses, ashtrays, beer mats and other bar paraphernalia;

– A ban on any promotion of alcohol consumption.

Following the meeting the editors of the Chiang Mai City News ran the sensationalist headline, “Junta Cracks Down On Alcohol Promotions”, with the article summary reading, “The junta has warned that it intends to enforce harsh measures regulating the advertising and promotion of alcohol, in a move that will affect thousands of businesses throughout the country”. They also reported that the existing laws, “will be universally enforced nationwide”.

Since when did the Chiang Mai Provincial Public Health Office become the Junta? And where was the announcement from the NCPO? Oh, that’s right, they aren’t and there wasn’t one.

The way I see it is someone at the Chiang Mai Health Office was trying to impress those up the ladder by showing they were efficient at their job and cracking the whip, keeping everything in order in their neck of the woods. The Chiang Mai City News went with their over the top headline in hope of extra web traffic, and why not? It had worked a few days earlier with their exclusive on digital nomads being allowed to work in Thailand on Tourist Visas. A claim that has never been verified.

Had it not been for the fact that Chiang Mai City News articles are syndicated on ThaiVisa the story would have probably died a quick death but we all know how the members of that forum react when they read something on the site. And so it began…

NO Alcohol Crackdown

Social media was on fire with comments, opinion, exaggerations and “insight” from those “in-the-know” and the story gathered even more momentum.

I called and IM’d a few people in the booze business to see what they knew and every last one of them had heard nothing about it. The other red flag was no Thai language media were reporting the story.

The smell of bullshit was getting even stronger.

Next to add fuel to the fire was The Phuket News who went with: “PHUKET: A health official has confirmed details of a report by the Chiang Mai City News that indicates that a much more rigorous application of the Alcohol Control Act of 2008 is on its way soon”.

Reading the article of August 27 shows the health official said no such thing. What Dr Prapa Nakara, Director of Non-communicable Diseases at the Phuket Public Health Office actually said was, “This is not a special crackdown because this law was passed in 2008”.

You can only wonder at the Phuket News article and headline. Another desperate attempt to boost website traffic? It seems an all too common trend these days.

The competition at the Phuket Gazette did a follow up on Aug 29 and reported there would be NO ramp up enforcement of existing laws regulating the promotion of alcohol following an interview with the same health official Dr Nakara.

“The law stands as it is,” said PPHO Non-communicable Diseases division Director Prapa Nakara, who directly heads the enforcement of alcohol-related regulations on the island.

“I have no idea why this is in the spotlight at the moment. The Alcohol Control Act 2008 and the Ministerial Regulation On Criteria and Conditions for Displaying the Symbol for Advertising or Public Relations of Alcoholic Beverage 2010 are still the same – nothing has changed.”

Dr Prapa confirmed that the PPHO has not received any direct orders from the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

“We have received no new instructions about this, and we have no plans to launch any campaigns to specifically crack down on the promotion of alcohol,” she told the Gazette.

Despite those quotes, and still nothing in the Thai media nor either of the two main English language newspapers, the “alcohol crackdown” story has grown more legs than a centipede. The interwebs are still awash with speculation and now Time have jumped on the bandwagon with Charlie Campbell’s article, “Is the Thai Junta Really Going to Jail Sommeliers for Recommending Wine?” – no you bellend, they aren’t. More sensationalism in an article that reeks of desperation for a story.

The truth is, right now there’s NO alcohol crackdown.

If a crackdown is coming, we’ll soon know all about it from the extensive Thai media coverage and the message will be loud and clear like all the other crackdowns of the past few months.

(I linked only to the Gazette article as none of the others deserve any link juice. Higher search engine rankings will only encourage them to write more crap.)