More Thais than ever are hitting the bottle
AYUTTHAYA : The number of Thais drinking alcohol has jumped 33-fold in the past 40 years, according to substance control officials.
About 30% of Thailand's 67 million people now drink alcohol, said Saman Futrakul, director of the Disease Control Department's Alcohol Beverage Control Office, during a seminar in Ayutthaya on the 2008 Alcohol Beverage Control Act. The seminar was attended by judges, prosecutors and police in nine central provinces.
Dr Saman said drinkers were getting younger every year and even children were reported to be consuming alcohol.
He attributed the sharp increase in the number of drinkers to advertising. Liquor companies use promotions which give discounts and gifts to draw in customers. Scantily clad girls are employed as presenters, known locally as "pretties", to make brands more appealing.
Some sell alcohol in the form of lao pun, a fruit drink smoothie mixed with alcohol, Dr Saman added.
"Lao pun is often sold near schools and universities because students are the main target," he said.
"It's easy to drink lao pun and girls have no idea it's blended with alcohol."
This could lead to sexual abuse of girls who get drunk easily from the smoothies, he said.
He urged officials to enforce the Alcohol Beverage Control Act more strictly to curb the number of drinkers.
The law is equipped with many measures to control the sale of alcohol, which includes a requirement that alcohol commercials are permitted only after 10pm and a ban on sales near schools, universities and state agencies.