BANGKOK — The country’s top alcohol regulator on Thursday approved a draft regulation to ban any online booze sales.
The move came after alcohol watchdog groups urged the government to crack down on the online sales of booze, which surged during the pandemic lockdown. Deputy health minister Satit Pituthecha said the new rule aims to prevent consumers from easy access to alcohol beverages.
“The COVID-19 outbreak has given rise to online sales of alcoholic beverages, especially on the social media where promotions and home delivery services are offered,” Satit said. “There’s no age, time, or location restrictions, resulting in uncontrolled access to alcohol and difficulty in enforcing the alcoholic beverage control law.”
In April, the government imposed a nationwide ban on sales of alcoholic beverages in an effort to stem the spread of coronavirus. Nightlife establishments and parties were also blamed by government officials for developing a cluster of infections.
Under the current law, online sale of alcoholic beverages are not prohibited given that the vendor holds a valid license. However, it is illegal to post photos or encourage people to consume or purchase booze in the public, which includes the internet.
Satit said the new restrictions will take effect soon, though the exact date is yet to be announced.
Disease control department chief Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai said the new rule will not apply to establishments that use electronic devices to display their drink menu since the transaction does not take place online.
On Wednesday, representatives of alcohol sellers and brewers submitted a petition to the Alcohol Control Board, asking the government to postpone the decision since the alcohol industry is still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.
“Although alcohol can be sold now, businesses have to communicate with their customers,” Chiravas Vanasrisawasd, president of the Craft Beer Import and Distribution Association, said. “This will make things more difficult for the industry.”
Sales of alcohol will also be prohibited from Saturday to Tuesday due to two Buddhist holidays.