Following a recent online storm regarding hefty fines for posting alcohol-related photos online, the Office of the Alcohol Control Committee (OACC) has attempted to reassure citizens about the matter.
It started when a Facebook user under the name “We Can Choose” posted a letter showing a 50,000 baht fine for uploading an image of an alcoholic beverage.
The post quickly went viral, leading to citizens calling for an amendment to the law that has been in place since 2008.
Others also claimed they were fined heavily for posting pictures of alcohol, including an admin of the Facebook page “Daeg Beer Hai Plea Kaem.” The page focuses on educating people about craft beer.
The admin of the page claimed officials demanded a 50,000 baht fine for “advertising” alcohol. He claims he has never received payment for writing beer reviews and runs the page as a hobby.
Multiple similar incidents were exposed, stemming from a culture of “snitching” on people who posted photos of alcohol on their social media accounts. According to the law, anyone who reports such photos will receive reward money of 7,500 baht.
The incentive for reporting such photos is hard to ignore for many citizens. It is 2,500 baht more than the monthly 5,000 baht government cash handout for citizens affected by the coronavirus lockdowns.
The large number of reported photos online, petition demanding an amendment of the law, and general uncertainty about how the law is enforced has prompted a response from the OACC.
Dr. Nipon Chinanonwait, Director of the committee, said that the rumors are baseless, and individuals can post photos of alcoholic drinks and logos to reflect their lifestyle. He said:
“Individuals who simply post an image of a glass of alcohol with the logo are not violating Section 32 (of the 2008 Alcohol Beverage Control Act).”
However, the wording of the law is easily open to interpretation.
Dr. Chinanonwait continued by saying that celebrities and entertainers are treated differently and will face charges for posting alcoholic images online. He stated:
“These celebrities have a lot of fans. What they do can influence people directly or indirectly to become interested in what these celebrities consume.”
Exactly who is considered a celebrity or someone who can influence others was not mentioned by Dr. Cinanonwait and remains open to interpretation by the prosecuting officials.
The OACC Director also went on to admit that 174 complaints had been received during the covid-19 lockdown between March and May this year.
He continued by saying that the complaints were lodged with the Tobacco and Alcohol Surveillance System (TAS) online, and the individuals and companies reported have been summoned.