Editorial: September 2015
Thailand used to be notorious, and in many ways still is, for its sabai sabai pace of change, especially when it came to reform and the implementation of government policies, the much needed education reform and now the constitutional reform seem to be moving at a slug’s pace.
There are factors to be considered such as identifying problems, finding solutions, research, outreach, man power, and the implementation process itself, all of which can be nail-bitingly frustrating.
Until the Thaksin Shinawatra era of course, which coincided with the rise of the digital era, when an impatient prime minister fueled by a more vocal and testy mass than ever before seen, pushed through bewilderingly rapid changes. Some, such as the 30 baht health scheme, were roaring successes, while others like the first car buyers rebate was an absolute fail. With more patience and thought, the successes could have far outweighed the failures.
Over the past few months conflicting, confusing and downright confounding announcements about the sales of alcohol has left one message clear, there is a War on Booze. Ostensibly, and if implemented right, sensibly, targeting Thailand’s youth, the aim of the government is laudable, to not only cut down on underage drinking, but also to prevent the rise of new drinkers.
Thailand has long been battling the booze with a history of powerful PR campaigns, high alcohol taxes, a relatively late drinking age at 20, and more recently, tighter control on drunk driving. When taking in the cost of the World Health Organisation’s implication of over 200 alcohol-related diseases and injury conditions, control of widespread availability and abuse of alcohol seems like a sensible thing to do.
But as with all policies which affect a large swathe of a nation, there are ramifications. The new law banning alcohol sales within a 300 metre radius of educational institutions and temples should proceed with caution and be backed by a well thought out strategy. If there is a will, and there certainly is, and support, which seems to be quite strong, as well as the manpower to implement…well, we will talk about that in a bit, then by all means go for it. But when thousands of people (125,000 according to the Thai Alcohol Beverage Business Association, who admittedly have their own aegnda) stand to lose their livelihoods due to a rashly implemented policy, it may be best to reform in manageable steps.
I would like to urge the government _ you will notice that unlike in the past, I no longer scold, I fear (literally) – to take its time on this one. As our economy leans towards bust rather than robust, this may not be the time to put thousands of businesses, and all of those who rely on them, into the red. Why not do some research, set up clearly defined zoning areas for sales of alcohol, after all each city, town and village is unique, a national blanket policy just doesn’t seem to make sense, even offer loans and support for those who have to uproot or change their businesses?
Then again, the legal drinking age is already at 20, so why not try to implement that first before throwing adult business operators under the bus?
And we all know what is going to happen to businesses with the connections or the baht for bribes – nada. Perhaps tackling the insidious corruption would be a better start than such punitive action affecting so many hard working and honest people.
Should, or when, this law come into effect, the old city moat will be an alcohol free zone, most small villages in Thailand will become dry villages and since we all know that drinkers will drink, pubs and bars will head underground, free of the law’s overreach and riddled with all sorts of new problems I doubt the government has even foreseen.
I like a tipple. I am an adult, and it is one of my pleasures in life. I agree that I shouldn’t drink and drive, because my consumption should in no way affect anyone but myself. Anything beyond that is my business. If the government wants to focus on the national health, then start with education, then move on to the implementation of existing laws. Once that has been achieved, then we can talk. With all humble and due respect…of course.
Citylife this month:
Our cover story written by Kimbery Bryant explores Chiang Mai’s art scene and it’s place on the world art map. Intern Calista McHarrie interviews two very interesting personalities, one a woman who is fording her own path in life with her family business and another, one of Thailand’s last sword makers. Aydan Stuart concludes his two part series on the issues of water management, this month looking at the Royal Rain Makers and Dustin Covert rocks it out with our city’s hardcore metal scene.