Police monitoring social media for booze pictures is just another step toward Thailand becoming a military nanny state.
Four celebrities were placed under investigation last week for possibly promoting booze on social media, leaving netizens unsure if they might break the law by sharing photos of people enjoying a party with a bottle or two in the image.
Last December, the former Alcohol Control Board director warned after the launch of yet another crackdown that ordinary folks were not immune from prosecution. “Just by showing names and brands, whether directly or indirectly, people who post the photos are at risk of violating the same provisions,” Samarn Futrakul told Khaosod English.
Under Thai law, promoting booze online carries a maximum fine of 500,000 baht. If that’s not enough to dissuade people, this week also saw graphic warning labels for alcohol products being contemplated in a bid to further curb consumption. According to Thai Health Promotion Foundation, as of last year, there were 5 million alcoholics in Thailand.
Less cirrhosis among Thais and fewer road deaths due to drunk driving are welcome.
So why am I disturbed by these developments? It’s not that I am alcoholic but the patronizing approach the state and anti-booze campaigners bring to imposing censorship and trampling on liberties.
They continue pushing greater restrictions and one-sided messages. Again, the people cannot be trusted to make their own decisions, and instead of better equipping them to make better ones, the state wants to step in and eliminate the choice.
Thus the government in June 2015 imposed zoning regs wherein alcohol could not be sold within 300 meters of any school property, with enforcement of what was essentially unenforceable focused on some areas frequented by university students.
So instead of teaching students how to be responsible, as Oxbridge does with subsidized booze made available with strings attached, the Thai state took the totally opposite approach. Yet so many cheer these ill-considered and ineffective policies that extending the radius to two kilometers was proposed.
Forget about choosing the government – once there’s no trust that people can make mature and intelligent decision, there’s no end to the list of prohibitions on acceptable behavior, from what to drink to whom to marry. The state will have to come in and make these decisions for everyone.
Fear of punishment will win cooperation as more one-sided information is drilled into everyone’s heads for them to remember the correct information and correct attitude to hew to.
At the rate things are going, we can only expect more restrictions in more areas. For the past three years, for example, the military junta has decided that political gatherings of more than five people is bad for Juntaland Thailand, so they banned them. People who like a night out dancing in Bangkok are now hard-pressed to find anywhere to do so after midnight. And since the public can’t be trusted to differentiate between truth and falsehood, they must live in an environment where only glowing stories about the monarchy are legal. Consume anything else at the risk of breaking a law created long before the coup that has seen jail time increase to 15 from seven years when it was first introduced in 1976.
Thais have for decades accepted the spectacle of freezing in place for the national anthem at 8am and 6pm, at least if they are in earshot of it being played in a public place. This does nothing to better the nation, but a public freezing at attention simply because others freeze does become docile and unthinking.
The logical conclusion is that if the state expands its coercive powers over us and imposes more musts and don’ts, we risk being citizens in favor of becoming a managed population.
A docile population which unthinkingly follow orders is well-suited to military rule, and a threat that is sobering not for lack of alcohol.