PATHUM THANI — Two bars in a northern suburb of Bangkok were the first establishments to be shut down under a new order issued by the military junta that bans selling alcohol within 300 meters of universities and schools throughout the country.
Junta chairman and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha issued the ban on 23 July by invoking Section 44 of the interim charter, which grants him authority to unilaterally enact legally-binding orders.
The ban prohibits the sale of alcohol "in the vicinity of educational establishments" and student dormitories.
Thai officials have said that "vicinity" refers to a 300 meter radius around any educational establishments, a term that is used in existing laws to include schools, vocational colleges, and universities. The maximum penalty for bar owners who violate the prohibition is the revocation of their liquor license.
Acting under the new order, police officers raided two bars close to Rangsit University in Pathum Thani province shortly after midnight on 25 July and shut both places down.
"Both bars are situated close to an educational establishment and student dormitories, which is considered an offense under the NCPO's order about selling alcohol near educational establishments," said Pol.Lt.Gen. Prawut Thawornsiri, deputy chief of the Thai police, using the formal name of the junta, the National Council for Peace and Order.
The two bars are called Bungalow and M.3/2.
Pol.Lt.Gen. Prawut told reporters that the bars have been shut down, and the owners have been stripped of their licenses to sell alcohol.
The owners, Wasan Dokmaikrue and Kitthanet Amornlertthanon, are also facing additional criminal charges for admitting customers under the age of 20, operating without proper permits, and failing to adhere to the midnight closing time prescribed under existing laws.
The new booze ban was issued by Gen. Prayuth as a part of the junta's efforts to stamp out vice and impose public order at nighttime. The junta leader also signed new measures to crackdown on young street racers – known to Thais as dek vans – that regularly roam the roads of major cities at night. The new measure permits police officers to break up groups of people gathering with the intention to organize illegal races.
The booze ban is unlikely to be strictly enforced, as it would render bars and nightclubs in many popular nightlife districts illegal. For instance, Khaosan Road, a favorite party destination for foreign backpackers, is less than 300 meters from Satri Witthaya School, and the notorious red light district of Patpong is less than 300 meters away from Chulalongkorn University.
Since staging the coup d'etat against an elected government in May last year, the junta has launched several campaigns focused on moral education and reducing corruption and organized crime. Soldiers have also been regularly assisting police officers with arrests and other law enforcement duties.
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