CRITICAL UPDATE: The Phuket Provincial Police and the Ministry of Public Health later confirmed that alcohol ban will be from 00:01am July 5 thorugh to 23:59pm July 6.
All visitors to temples must wear face masks and be provided hand sanitiser. They must also observe social distancing and large gatherings must be managed in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, explained Saroj Kansirilasin, Director of the Secretariat of the National Buddhism Office.
The auspicious Buddhist holidays Asarnha Bucha Day and Khao Phansa (Buddhist Lent), also called “Vassa”, will be observed Saturday and Sunday (July 4-5), respectively.
As both are major religious holidays, the sale of alcohol is banned by law across the country on both days. As such, the alcohol ban will start at 00:01am Saturday (July 4) and conclude at midnight Sunday night (23:59pm July 5).
As both holidays this year occur on the weekend, the Cabinet last week proclaimed that the following Monday and Tuesday (July 6-7) will be substitution public holidays.
Phuket Provincial Police Commander Maj Gen Rungrote Thakurapunyasiri confirmed to The Phuket News that the ban on the sale of alcohol will be enforced on the major religious days only.
"The ban on the sale of alcohol will be enforced on Asarnha Bucha Day and Khao Phansa (Buddhist Lent), but there will be no ban on the substitution day public holidays,” he said.
The two religious days and the ensuing public holidays will bring a four-day weekend for government officers from Saturday through Tuesday (July 4-7).
Over the four days, most government offices on the island will be closed, including Phuket Immigration Office, the Employment Office, the Land Transport Office and the island’s three District Offices.
All main bank branches will be closed, but branches in shopping centres will remain open.
All Royal Thai Police and Tourist Police stations will remain open and some local consulates will be open to serve their respective citizens.
Only on the weekend, alcohol sales is prohibited across the country, except at duty-free shops at the airport.
According to an announcement by the Prime Minister’s Office on January 22, 2015, the sale of alcohol is prohibited on five specific religious days: Makha Bucha, Visakha Bucha, Asarnha Bucha Day, Khao Pansa and Wan Org Pansa.
Under the order, anyone caught breaking the ban faces a prison sentence of up to six months, a B10,000 fine or both.
Asarnha Bucha day is the full-moon day of the eighth lunar month, commemorating the Buddha’s first sermon to his first five disciples after attaining Enlightenment more than 2,500 years ago.
As part of making merit to honour the day, Buddhists attend evening candlelit processions called wien tien at temples across the country. Visitors are welcome to respectfully join the event.
Buddhist Lent day, or Khao Phansa Day, is the start of a period of three lunar months during the rainy season when monks are required to remain in one particular place or temple and undertake deep meditation.