By Teeranai Charuvastra
BANGKOK — After going dark for some months, the nation’s top alcohol regulator is back with more bad news.
Lao pan, those ubiquitous iced cocktail jugs sold at every festival and night market in Thailand? Illegal since 1950, Samarn Futrakul, the renowned prohibitionist who heads the alcohol control board, pointed out to reporters Sunday.
Samarn made the comment two days after he led a raid Friday on a night fair near Lumpini Park, in which officials busted cocktail stands and confiscated a number of alcoholic beverages said to violate the law, namely beer popsicles.
According to Samarn, the 1950 law specifically bans vendors from mixing large batches of alcohol to be sold in cups to customers. The law also outlaws giving out samples of cocktails to passers-by, he said.
Under Section 23 of the Liquor Act, no one is allowed to mix alcohol with other substances put it in a different container “unless the customer specifically requests the alteration of the liquor for immediate consumption.”
Because of that passage, Samarn warned, vendors are not allowed to prepare cocktails in large quantities, and they can only mix cocktails in small portions for customers who specifically order them, Samarn said.
He gave no indication whether he would next go after the tanks of mojitos and other pre-mixed cocktails commonly found in places which sell alcohol.
In the raid at the former site of the Suan Lum Night Bazaar, officials arrested vendors selling beer popsicles, which Samarn determined were an “alteration” of alcohol and therefore an offense under the 1950 law. The vendors face fines for these violations, he said.
The raid signaled Samarn’s return to the spotlight four months after he was chided for going too far with an overzealous campaign targeting increasingly mainstream activities, such as open-air beer gardens popular during the cool season (Illegal, he ruled).
A ‘lao pan’ stand Friday night at a night market near Lumpini Park.
An avowed Buddhist who believes alcohol is sinful, Samarn has sought to restrict its availability by drafting a number of laws and regulations as head of the National Alcohol Control Board.
Late last year, Samarn was a daily news fixture due to his zealous efforts to limit alcohol sales, such as threatening to prosecute anyone posting photos of alcohol on social media, and raids on convenience stores that violated strict but unenforced advertising regulations.
His rampage came to an abrupt end when he attempted to ban the beer gardens, a lucrative business for the kingdom’s major beer conglomerates and popular national past time. After being widely criticized for overreaching from figures including junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha, Samarn has kept a much lower profile.