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Groups want liquor sellers to be held accountable

Dec 30. 2018
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By The Nation

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CIVIL SOCIETY has demanded that bars and restaurants take responsibility for alcohol-related road accidents, emphasising that it is high time law-enforcers dust off a long-ignored law.

Section 29 of the 2008 Alcohol Control Act makes shops liable to a one-year jail term, a fine of Bt20,000 or both for selling alcohol to people who are already drunk.

However, the law is rarely enforced and alcohol retailers are never prosecuted, Songkran Pakchokdee, director of the Stop Drink Network, said yesterday. He said alcohol companies had been lobbying policymakers to impose punishment solely on drunk drivers involved in alcohol-related accidents. “When a high-ranking police officer recently mentioned enforcing the [dram shop] law, the industry went silent,” Songkran said. 

“Although we have had [the law as] a preventive tool in place for 10 years, it is not enforced. We have to see if this law will be used during this New Year holiday season. Otherwise we will continue to count the number of dead and injured like we have been doing,” he said.

Tackling road accidents has long been on the national agenda, but little has been achieved. In the past 10 years, 3,000-4,500 people have been injured and 350-450 killed in road accidents every year during major long holidays like Songkran and New Year, said Chuwit Jantaros, coordinator of Alcohol Watch. He said alcohol retailers must take responsibility for the deaths and injuries caused by their drunken customers. 

When an alcohol-related accident takes place, we should be able to trace it to the store or restaurant and punish them for selling more drinks to drunk customers, Chuwit said. 

“This will ensure that the vendors take more responsibility. They shouldn’t just aim to boost sales without caring how likely the customers are [to cause accidents],” he said.

Chuwit advised booze shops to buy a device to check the blood-alcohol level of their customers. 

“These days, a breathalyser is very affordable. All shops should use the device to help their customers return home safely and avoid breaking the law,” he said.

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