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A court in Thailand handed a craft beer enthusiast a $4,360 fine and a suspended six-month prison sentence for violating a law on advertising alcoholic beverages by posting a photo of a beer with his evaluation of it on Facebook.
Artid Sivahansaphan said Monday he plans to appeal his conviction in the hope of changing a law he believes is unfair to consumers and small entrepreneurs.
The 2008 Alcoholic Beverage Control Act prohibits “advertising or displaying, directly or indirectly, the name or trademark of any alcoholic beverage.” It carries a maximum penalty of one year’s imprisonment and a fine of 14,540.
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Artid was convicted on Friday by a court in Nonthaburi, just north of Bangkok, for a post on Facebook in 2020. An initial penalty of eight months in prison and a $5,810 fine was reduced to a suspended six-month sentence and a $4,360 fine because the court considered his testimony helpful, he told The Associated Press.
Supak Ko-it, a coordinator of Beer People, a group that promotes the liberalization of production and sale of beer, attended the court session and confirmed the details of the sentence.
“The court didn’t seem to understand,” she said. “Artid wrote the post from the aspect of a consumer reviewing a beer, not someone selling it, but the court wasn’t interested in that point.”
A man looks at beer on shelves at a supermarket in Bangkok, Thailand, on April 24, 2023. Artid Sivahansaphan said he has been handed a fine and a suspended six-month prison sentence for violating a law on advertising alcoholic beverages. Sivahansaphan posted a photo of an IPA-style beer with his evaluation of it on Facebook. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
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Thailand regulates the production, sale and advertising of alcoholic drinks, with sales hours limited and advertising or any other depiction of alcoholic beverages largely banned across all platforms. On television, images of alcoholic drinks are usually electronically blurred.
Critics charge that the regulations, particularly on production, unfairly favor large established companies which are owned by some of the country’s wealthiest business families.
Artid said he is a freelance translator and does not have any business interest in alcoholic beverages but is passionate about craft beer. His Facebook page, where he has written about both Thai and foreign beers for about 10 years, has more than 70,000 followers.
“I didn’t advertise it. I didn’t encourage people to drink it. I didn’t advocate for driving drunk. I only talked about the aesthetic aspect of it,” he said. “Thailand is a country where it’s illegal for people to drink a beer and say it’s delicious.”
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“The day that I waited for my bail approval, someone convicted of drunk driving walked in. He was fined 60,000 baht, and I was like, ‘What? I write stuff at home, and I got a 150,000 baht fine,’” Artid said.
Thailand’s popular Move Forward Party, commenting on a similar pending case, said the law is being used for “bullying ordinary people and local entrepreneurs.” It said the ban on advertising should only apply to business operators, and small operators should be allowed to advertise with some restrictions.