No toasting New Year at Thai parks

If you think you’re going to a national park to celebrate New Year’s with beer and liquor, think again.

The National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department has vowed to strictly prohibit alcohol drinking at its national parks and threatened to take tough legal action against violators.

A surge in the number of visitors to the department’s parks across the country is expected during the coming New Year holiday with most parks around the country already fully booked, said Thanya Netithammakun, director-general of the department on Sunday.

Alcohol is seen as a factor that may lead to feuds and other disruptive behaviour among the festive revellers, he said.

“The department is concerned about problems associated with alcohol such as rowdy behaviour or accidents. Most visitors to the park expect a peaceful stay and only wish to indulge in the natural beauty,” he said.

The department has told officials at national parks nationwide that they must strictly enforce the ban on alcohol, which includes both bringing alcoholic beverages into the parks and drinking alcohol in the parks themselves, he said.

Those found flouting the ban will face up to one month in jail and/or a maximum fine of 1,000 baht, he said, adding that anyone caught violating this ban will also be asked to leave the park immediately.

Mr Thanya also said the department has ordered its national parks to offer an alternative way to celebrate — with Buddhist prayer.

Also Sunday, anti-alcohol campaign groups gave the department 7,000 vinyl banners and plastic signs with which to promote the ban, he said.

Those who witness any violations of the ban are advised to report them to the department’s 24-hour 1362 hotline.

Songkran Phakchokdee, manager of StopDrink Network, one the three organisations supporting the alcohol ban at the parks, said alcohol is partly to blame for causing festive accidents and violence among park visitors, which can lead to injuries or even deaths.

The department deserves to be praised for taking this brave step as a way of preventing violence associated with alcohol, said Mr Songkran.

The other organisations taking part in supporting this initiative are the Thai Health Promotion Foundation and the Accident Prevention Network.

Alliances of these organisations in all parts of the country will further cooperate with the department’s efforts to ban alcohol by forming a network to watch out for any acts violating the ban and promptly report it to the authorities concerned, said Mr Songkran.

They will also take part in a public campaign to raise public awareness about the ban ahead of the New Year festival, he said.

Neeracha Wongmasa, president of the Thai Ecotourism and Adventure Travel Association (Teata), supported the measures, saying that to begin with there might be resistance, but the result would hopefully be quality tourists who would visit only for the tranquillity of the natural surroundings.

A source in the tourism business, who asked not to be named, said the measures must be announced clearly to inform tourists in advance.

“Drunk people are hard to deal with. Preventing drunkenness will also prevent harm to nature, animals and disturbances to other visitors,” the source said.

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