The sale of alcohol at any retail outlet, and the serving of alcohol in all pubs, bars and restaurants, is banned in Thailand during elections. This applies to all elections, including local, municipal and national elections. It also applies during periods of advance voting. For example, the 2011 Thai national elections are due to be held on July 3, but Thai citizens who are residing outside the constituency they are registered in must vote during the weekend of June 25-26 at special polling stations that are set up in every major center all over Thailand.
Reasons for Alcohol Ban
The reasons for the ban have never really been spelled out, but presumably the idea behind it is that politics in Thailand can generate strong feelings and that alcohol might loosen those inhibitions which keep political discourse within reasonable bounds. This might strike some foreigners as strange, (an Englishman, for example, might enjoy speculating about the outcome of an election over a quiet beer in his local pub) but it should be noted that several local political figures have already been murdered in the run-up to this most recent election.
Furthermore, this election is not just being fought on parochial concerns regarding the economy or the environment, but on quite fundamental issues relating to the constitution and political rights. On the advance voting weekend of June 25-26 over 35,000 police were deployed to guard against any breakdown in law and order, and something similar can be expected on the weekend of July 2-3. In the end, the process of advance voting went off relatively smoothly and there were no major incidents.
Other Countries Institute Alcohol Bans During Elections
It should also be noted that Thailand is not alone in imposing such a ban. Other countries, such as Greece and Nepal, have similar legislation.
Enforcement of Alcohol Ban
However, the situation is not all doom and gloom. As may be the case, regulations might not be enforced evenly. The degree to which the ban is rigorously enforced may be influenced by the visibility or prestige of the outlet or venue concerned. One can expect the ban to be enforced in all the major hotels, major chains of supermarkets and convenience stores. Any restaurant on a major thoroughfare or in the center of town will be expected to heed the ban.
The mom and pop convenience stores in the smaller sois, and local grog shops may not, however, merit the same level of surveillance. It may be possible to find a drink on election night, if you are a little more adventurous about where you go. The important thing is to show a little sensitivity and discretion. Any raucous or unruly behaviour will only draw attention to the venue you have found, which is something the other customers may not appreciate. One may also consider a night without alcohol. If that prospect is so disturbing, it might perhaps be time to consult a doctor.