Thailand urged to ban sales of alcohol on Songkran Day

By Pongphon Sarnsamak, The Nation, Feb 16, 2009

Bangkok, Thailand -- Some 200 members of the Alcohol Watch Network and its allies rallied outside the Public Health Ministry Monday, demanding Health Minister Wittaya Kaewparadai ban alcohol sales on Buddhist holidays and major festivals such as Songkran and the New Year celebrations.

Protest leader Kamron Chudecha said the group wanted Wittaya to forward the group's petition to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who is chair of the national alcohol control policy committee, to ban alcohol sales on Makha Bucha Day, Visakha Bucha day, Asaraha Bucha day, and Buddhist Lent Day.

"We want the health minister - and the ministry- to have a clear standing and policy to push forward the alcohol sale ban for the coming Songkran festival," he said.

Kamron said the government should pressure the national alcohol control committee and the control policy committee, so that enforcement of the law and strict restrictions on alcohol sales and consumption can get underway.

"We agree with the health ministry [proposal] to put warning pictures and messages on alcohol bottles" similar to those on tobacco products, he said.

Wittaya said he would present the group's demands to ban alcohol on Buddhist Days to the national alcohol control policy next month. After this meeting, he would issue regulations banning alcohol sales during that period.