On Sunday, February 19th, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told a meeting of the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth) board that his ministry opposes a proposal from the Tourism Ministry to expand the legal closing times for nightspots to 4 AM from 2 AM.
The minister backed his opposition with concerns over public welfare and safety, saying road accidents could rise if pubs are allowed to operate up to 4 AM. He added that during the 2023 New Year period, road accidents significantly decreased by 20% compared to last year due to the cooperation of all parties concerned, including ThaiHealth for their road safety campaign.
Anutin disclosed, however, that the Public Health Ministry may agree to let nightlife venues in some key tourist areas stay open until 4 AM on a case-by-case basis. These areas, for example, could include Bangkok’s Khaosan Road, Pattaya, and Phuket’s Bangla Walking Street. The matter requires more discussion and thought, however, Anutin added, as well as partnership from local authorities in those areas.
The minister said his ministry did not ignore the economic benefit of the proposal but also said he had to put the potential social impact into account as well.
Meanwhile, despite calls for the legalization of e-cigarettes, Anutin firmly set his foot in opposition, saying he will “never” allow e-cigarettes to be legalized in Thailand, as he said he cares about the people’s health.
He said he has recently directed the Disease Control Department to collaborate with the Royal Thai Police and Customs Department to enforce the law related to e-cigarettes. The minister also directed ThaiHealth to educate young people on the danger of e-cigarettes.
Thailand’s e-cigarette law carries a harsh sentence, with a fine of over 500,000 baht and a maximum jail term of five years, according to some senior high-ranking police.