Jail time for national park boozers

BANGKOK, 6 December 2017: There is no middle road to responsible drinking as far as Thailand’s national parks go; drink and you go to jail.

Authorities are warning tourists who camp overnight at national parks they risk a prison term and fines if they take even a single alcoholic sip before turning in for the night.

Possession of alcoholic beverages warrants an embarrassing U-turn at the gates of national parks as officials say they will check car boots for booze.

Campers caught drinking around camp fire will face a fine and/or jail, regardless of their nationality.

Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation’s director-general, Thanya Netithammakun, over the weekend put a damper on camping holiday plans when he reminded tourists all national parks are strictly alcohol-free.

Camping in the cool season months in one of Thailand’s national parks is a popular holiday option for young and family travellers.  Usually a guitar and a smuggled bottle of whisky, or possibly a crate of beer miraculously appear from the car boot.

National parks that charge foreigners at least THB400 to enter for a 24-hour spell issued an usual festive season greeting; they will crackdown on boozers.

Offenders are liable to one month in jail and/or a maximum fine of THB1,000. The national parks chief added that campers caught boozing would be immediately ejected from the park.

“Drink responsibly” is not a popular theme for the majority of Thai travellers particularly during national holidays and campers are no exception even if they are travelling on a budget. National park camp sites are viewed as all-night party venues, where a good night’s sleep is not an option.

The rule banning alcohol beverages in national parks has been on the books since 2010, but largely ignored as the parks lacked resources and manpower to enforce the law. It was introduced after a brawl between drunken campers in Khao Yai’s national park that resulted in the death of a student.

“Alcohol drinking often leads to brawls and accidents. When seeing others drink alcohol, people also feel insecure,” the director-general  told local media.