And on Tuesday, health officials were keen to enforce them. (See story here.)
As law, the ban applies to every person in the Kingdom, and we have four more to go this year: Visakha Bucha (May 18), Asarnha Bucha (July 16), Khao Pansa (July 17) and Wan Org Pansa (Oct 13).
Makha Bucha, Visakha Bucha and Asarnha Bucha Day are all public holidays in the Kingdom. Khao Pansa and Wan Org Pansa, however, are not.
With the March 24 national election just four weeks away, those who have not been in Thailand for electoral polls – and specifically those expats who have landed on the island in the past four years – are about to learn that the Election Act also mandates that an alcohol ban be enforced from midnight to midnight on election day in areas where an election for a public post is being held.
On March 24, that means a nationwide alcohol ban.
What most people have yet to realise is that with the national election out of the way, the door opens for elections for every single local council and elected seat in the country as all of them have now exceeded the maximum four years for any incumbent.
In Phuket, that means elections will be held for 19 local councils – 12 municipalities and seven tambon administration organisations (OrBorTor) – as well as the provincial elections for council members of the Phuket Provincial Administration (PPAO, or OrBorJor).
According to the Phuket office of the Election Commission of Thailand, the local elections for these posts are all expected be held sometime from May through July – possibly later – but very likely to all be held before the end of the year. (See story here.)
We are hoping that some common sense will prevail and that all the local council elections for Phuket are held across the island on one day, with the PPAO election held on another.
That would create just two more islandwide alcohol bans in Phuket due to elections, instead of having 20 more piecemeal alcohol bans in constituencies where and when local elections are being held, including the heavy tourist areas of Patong, Karon and elsewhere along Phuket’s west coast as well as in Phuket Town.
Creating public holidays to observe religious days raises enough questions, but to enact legislation specifically to enforce a behaviour in line with one particular faith does beg serious questions.
If those in power have doubts about the sincerity of a nation’s faith, perhaps more proactive steps to attract people to that faith should be taken.
Enforcing a law on all people regardless of their faith to observe a tenet of one particular faith upholds only one principle: one law for all. Nothing else is gained.
The alcohol bans for elections are worse, enacted as if once upon a time in the Kingdom the voting adult public could not be trusted not to drink on election day. If that were so, so be it. But enforcing the alcohol ban on those who are not eligible to vote – namely tourists – beggars belief. The local elections have nothing to do with them.
Alcohol is not the be all or end all of a holiday, but for many tourists a drink is a welcome companion adding that finishing touch to a holiday moment. We won’t be seeing any tour operators advertising abroad anytime soon a cocktail on the beach while watching the sunset, without the cocktail, or a romantic dinner for two, without the wine.
A nation rightfully makes laws for its own people and all guests are asked to respect them, while a host’s lack of consideration for guests says everything about the host.
In a country with its most popular faith eternally calling for people to find the middle way in resolving any conflict in life, as honoured on Tuesday this week, surely we can find some middle ground on this particular issue, especially on the country’s most successful tourism island.