Thailand to ban online alcohol sales to curb underage drinking

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand said on Thursday it would prohibit online sales of alcohol in a clampdown on underage drinking after a rise in sales during the coronavirus outbreak.

FILE PHOTO: A worker cleans a plastic barrier used for social distancing at the Sherbet club ahead of bars and night clubs reopening nationwide after the Thai government extended an emergency decree until the end of July in a bid to avoid the risk of a second wave of the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Bangkok, Thailand, June 30, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo

The Southeast Asian country scrapped a three-week ban on the sale of alcohol in shops in May when it lifted other restrictions following progress in containing the coronavirus.

The legal drinking age is 20 and the sale of alcohol is prohibited in certain areas like schools and parks. Thailand already limits the hours that stores can sell alcohol.

“Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the sale of beverages online has increased and there were promotions that did not regulate age and location, making it difficult to enforce existing laws,” Deputy Minister of Public Health Satit Pitutacha said in a statement.

The new regulations would come into effect this year and carry a maximum fine of 10,000 baht ($320) and up to six months in prison.

Several grocery retailers in Thailand offer alcoholic products online.

“A more logical decision would be to enforce checking of age,” Jerome Le Louer, owner of Wishbeer, an online store for craft beer, wines and spirits.

“We check the ID of our customers when we deliver,” he said, adding that retailers could do similar checks online and that cooperation between regulators and businesses would be more effective than prohibition.

Thailand reported six new coronavirus cases on Thursday, all imported from abroad, marking 38 successive days without any domestic transmission.

Red-light districts in the Thai capital, Bangkok, reopened on Wednesday after more than three months of shutdown.

Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Nick Macfie