Thailand’s leading anti-alcohol crusader is calling out Thai authorities for not prosecuting a distant royal relative for violating the country’s draconian booze-marketing law even as they fine regular citizens up to 50,000 for posting beer selfies.
Kamron Choodecha, head of the prohibitionist Alcohol Watch Network, criticized the Office of Alcohol Beverage Control and police for giving a pass to ML Piyapas Bhirombhakdi for posting a photo of herself showing off a branded bottle of booze on her Instagram profile. (The photo has since been deleted.)
ML Piyapas is not only great-granddaughter of Prince Nares Varariddhi, a son of HM King Rama IV, but is married to Chutinant Bhirombhakdi, one of the heirs to the Boon Rawd Brewery fortune and executive vice-president of Singha Corp. Her post was a photo showing a new Boon Rawd product.
The activist argued that the bottle and brand was clearly visible and, given that ML Piyapas has a vested interest in Boon Rawd sales, her post can only be construed as sales or marketing. That would violate Article 32 of the Alcohol Beverage Control Act, which prohibits any sort of booze marketing online he said.
The fact she has not been fined – even as police are extracting hundreds of thousands of baht from ordinary people posting harmless photos of beverages they’re enjoying – illustrates the inequality in Thai society and the privilege elites are given when it comes to enforcing the law.
Others may argue, however, that the hypocrisy of the incident illustrates only how ludicrous Article 32 is.
The fact she has not been fined … llustrates the inequality in Thai society and the privilege elites are given when it comes to enforcing the law.
Sporadically enforced over the years, the law vaulted back into the headlines when foreign-managed alcohol distributor Beervana was fined 50,000 baht for an online post describing one of its new products as “refreshing”, which contravened Article 32’s ban on adjectives in marketing copy.
In coming days, reports surfaced across the country of the ABC and police summoning young adults and grandmothers alike in and slapping them with huge fines for posts had no connection to marketing or sales.
Most recently, a young woman in Thailand’s South was hit with a 17,000-baht fine for a posting a photo of a beer she liked to a beer fan page. The page owner was so outraged, he paid 5,000 baht of the fine and met face to face with regulators to protest the law.
Even Kamron – a anti-alcohol zealot lifted straight out the pages of the 1920s U.S. Prohibition Era – admits that the alcohol-marketing law is being abused and misused by police and authorities.
He maintains that simply using the word “beer” or posting photos of bottles or glasses does not break the law – as long as brands are not shown. The law’s intent, he believes, is only to prevent advertising of alcoholic beverages on social and conventional media platforms.
If the poster had no commercial intention, he or she should be fined, Kamron argued.
However, if authorities are going to strictly interpret the law as they have done with mere mortals, than distant royal relatives or any other elite in society should be punished equally, he said.