DRINKERS are being kept on tenterhooks after a ministerial panel on alcohol control has not yet decided whether to ban sales of booze during the upcoming Songkran festival.
The idea of forbidding consumption of alcohol during the festival was an attempt by the authorities to reduce the soaring number of road accidents.
Dr Nipon Chinanonvej, director of the office of the committee on alcohol control at the Public Health Ministry, said that a proposal had been submitted to the committee to ban sales of alcohol during Songkran Day that falls on April 13 every year.
However, consideration of the plan has been delayed as the panel’s chairman, Deputy Prime Minster Chatchai Salikalaya, was absent when it was due to be discussed on March 15 and has since ordered further inquiries into all the issues involved. “There is not yet a new schedule to consider the proposal,” he said.
Nipon said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had instructed that the laws be reinforced in order to decrease road accidents during the water festival.
Meanwhile Nikorn Chamnong, chairman of the People’s Safety Foundation, said that the powers-that-be should carefully consider whether banning the sale of alcohol during the Songkran festival was a good idea as suitable and appropriate measures had already been put in place.
“Moreover the cause of road accidents is not only drunk driving but also includes speeding and exhausted drivers,” said Nikorn, who is also director of Chartthaipattana Party. “Judging from the New Year festival, the cause of the road accidents by drunk driving has already reduced. I personally disagree with the ban during the water |festival.”
The government should also respect the rights of other people who do not drive and want to enjoy the long holiday, Nikorn said.
Dr Nipon added that his department would intensify restrictions on the sale of alcohol beyond the allowed period and offenders could face a prison sentence of up to six months and a fine of up to Bt10,000. Moreover, those found to be selling alcohol to those under 20 years or in a drunken state could also be jailed for up to six months or be fined up to Bt20,000.
Nipon revealed that Pol Lt-General Damrongsak Kittiprapas, assistant national police chief and acting as chairman of a sub-committee on prevention and suppression of violators of the Alcohol Control Act, had already told police to strengthen the use of laws to help decrease road accidents during Songkran festival.
Other officials from authorities, such as the Excise Department, will jointly visit places that were known to be crowded with revellers, including late-finishing Songkran fairs, to make sure that the laws were being strictly followed.
To sell booze by the roadside was certainly illegal, the doctor |said, as they had no licence to sell. Offenders could be fined up to Bt5,000.