This month saw a lot of drama from the Beer People’s Beer Festival, and the hits keep coming as a Thai advocate for reforming alcohol laws faces prosecution and hefty fines for posting photos of craft beer in recent years.
One week after Thanakorn “Benz” Tuamsa-ngiam hosted a large gathering of like-minded beer fans, the activist has been charged with illegally promoting alcohol via his online community for Prachachon Beer (“Beer People”). He now faces a fine of at least B750,000 (US$22,000) fine.
Thanakorn said he went to hear the charges at Nonthaburi Police Station on Friday. He was told by the officers that he had violated the Alcohol Control Act with 15 posts in which he talked about craft beer. The posts were made between Oct. 6, 2020, and July 12, 2021.
The draconian Alcoholic Beverage Control Act’s Section 32 states that no person shall “advertise or display, directly or indirectly, the name or trademark of any alcoholic beverage in a manner showing the properties thereof or inducing another person to drink.”
Violators risk fines from B50,000 to B500,000, depending largely on the “sympathy” of officials.
Thanakorn said he would be charged B50,000 for each post for B750,000 in total. But the fines could run higher due to a daily fine which requires him to “fix” the post.
Section 43 of the same act states that: The violator shall be liable to a daily fine not exceeding 50,000 baht a day through the period of violation or until acting correctly.
“If we include the daily fines, I’m facing up to several million baht now,” Thanakorn said. “This case may be the heftiest fine anyone in Thailand has faced before.”
Thanakorn in a post on Friday said he is crowdfunding for anyone who is willing to chip in to help him meet the fine.
“I insist that I will fight this case so that this law, which is so unfair to people and small-scale brewers, will be amended in the end,” Thanakorn said.
Numerous provisions of the Alcohol Beverage Control Act have created a new taboo of royal proportions threatening to silence citizens by controlling what they say about booze under threat of severe consequences.
Over the years, the laws, which went from limiting advertising in magazines and on television, have crept to cover all forms of public expression, including Instagram feeds.
That means a ban on all advertisement or display, directly or indirectly, of brand names, labels, trademarks, and the like of any alcoholic beverage that ascribes qualities to it or might “induce” another person to drink. And, as with many areas of the law, enforcement is highly selective.