THE Thai Alcohol Beverage Business Association (TABBA) says the public and private sectors should work together to clarify the ambiguities in the country’s new alcohol control law.
Such cooperation would effectively tackle underage drinking, a high road accident rate and social problems caused by excessive drinking, the group said.
The association said the government sector has an obligation to listen to every stakeholder’s opinion in order to “internationalise the law, elucidate obscure and unclear legal interpretations, advocate for fair enforcement”, as well as promote public awareness of the harm caused by alcohol abuse.
Thanakorn Kuptajit, president of TABBA, said that some sections of The Alcohol Beverage Control Act B.E. 2551 are ambiguous, which have resulted in different interpretations of law enforcement.
The number of underage drinkers in Thailand has not dropped due to deficiencies in the law and people’s drinking behaviours. In other Asian countries, like Japan, alcohol is not associated with social problems and product advertising is allowed. This is because its law enforcement is carried out efficiently, Thanakorn said.
TABBA wants the public sector and relevant agencies to consider modernising the new law to solve the root causes of the problem and properly educate Thai people and youth on the law.
“If there is to be a common understanding of the guidelines, some issues in the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act B.E. 2551 must be discussed by the government and the private sector,” Thanakorn said.
“What can and cannot be done legally regarding the alcohol control act has become an extended conversation in society. TABBA, as the representative of the alcoholic beverage businesses that advocates for ethical marketing and social responsibility, wishes to collaborate with the government and the general public to promote fair and efficient law enforcement.
“The association believes that a partnership between every sector will lead to a sustainable and successful solution to the harmful use of alcohol in Thailand. Such an effort is also in line with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) 2025 global target, which aims for at least a 10 per cent relative reduction in the harmful use of alcohol.”
Despite being well-intentioned, the new law is ambiguous in some areas, as well as being overly dependent on the discretion of officials, resulting in the lack of definitive guidelines, the group said.
There is also a risk of a conflict of interest, as the incentive for sizeable rewards can indirectly lead to unjust legal interpretation. Similarly, the general public has noted that despite the sound content, the act lacks clarity and standards of practice1, which is confusing to both consumers and businesses and negatively affects the economy and the tourism industry, the group said.
The quantity of alcoholic beverages consumed has been increasing each year. In fiscal 2015, 2,864 million litres of alcoholic drinks were consumed, for 0.6 per cent growth year-on-year; in fiscal 2016, consumption reached 3,088 million litres, for growth of 7.8 per cent over the previous year. Additionally, the trend in alcoholic consumption among Thais aged over 15 years has shown no significant drop despite the enforcement of the alcoholic beverage control act. These figures imply the Thai people practice only moderate celebratory behaviour.
According to WHO figures, Thailand ranks 72nd globally on the list of alcohol consumption per capita of people aged over 15 years. This statistic contradicts the common belief that the nation places near the top when it comes to alcohol consumption. Furthermore, a survey by the Royal Thai Police suggests that the main cause of road accidents in the kingdom is lack of traffic discipline, not drink driving which ranks in seventh place. These results further prove that alcohol is not the main cause of social problems, especially in terms of road safety. Enforcement of the nee Act alone is not an adequate solution to overall road-safety issues.
The public sector is therefore urged to involve the private sector and the general public in formulating a mutual understanding and standard of practice while also promoting fair and just law enforcement that is appropriate to the current social and economic environment, in accordance with the WHO’s global target to relatively reduce the harmful use of alcohol by 10 per cent within 2025, the industry group said.
“TABBA thus proposes that the public sector and relevant agencies consider the request to modernise the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act B.E. 2551, so that the law is in line with international practices,” said Thanakorn.
“ In order to truly reflect the spirit of the law, the association asks that mutual efforts be made in the clarification of the ambiguous legal interpretation while ensuring fairness in the legal implementation. This, along with constructive engagement with the public about the harmful use of alcohol, is necessary to achieving effective and comprehensive alcoholic beverages regulation.”