Thai Interior Ministry to do new survey of night entertainment zones

PHOTO: The New Paper

The Interior Ministry will re-check and survey night entertainment zones, set up in 2002, to formulate new zonings in six months - as city development and better transport access may have changed many areas, Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya said yesterday.

Paiboon urged business operators to co-operate with officials doing the new survey, whose mission is to create new zones. This would "unlock" a legal obstacle for decent operators' seeking to obtain licences to open shops in areas in the "old" zones.

After this, entertainment zones would be surveyed every two years to ensure they have not broken the law.

Paiboon explained that the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)'s order No 22/2015, using Article 44 in the interim charter to tackle illegal street racing and outlets selling alcohol near universities, did not ban entertainment venues within 300 metres of educational institutions. Some had misunderstood the order in regard to venues' distance from schools, he said, as the Cabinet resolution and NCPO didn't say anything about a 300-metre radius.

He urged police and Interior Ministry officials to help operators get a more accurate understanding of the move. He said a meeting of related officials would be held soon to ensure they proceed to implement the order and policy strictly.

The minister insisted the government would not give leniency, saying they need to protect Thai youths from drugs and alcohol and would implement the NCPO order for two months before assessing outcomes for improvement.

Paiboon said the Excise Depart-ment would also review the issuing of service establishment licences in 60 days because some operators used a legal loophole, and operated under a new name during the five years they were told to remain shut.

He said the government would not target the operators of general car or motorcycle accessory shops not linked to illegal street racing, so they could carry on as usual. Parents of racers would not be punished for the first offence but only if they neglected to stop youths for re-offending for a second or third time, he said.

The Royal Gazette published the NCPO order last Thursday, in which PM and NCPO chief General Prayut Chan-o-cha invoked powers under Article 44 to tackle illegal street racing, alcohol outlets around universities and night-spots whose activities break the law.

A day after the order was announced, operators of more than 20 outlets near-schools who sell food and alcoholic drinks said the order should be reviewed, as they had been affected by the ban on selling alcohol near universities and dormitories. They said the government should review if the order stops students drinking alcohol.

The group said they would list the names of operators affected by the move in an open letter asking for sympathy from the media and related agencies. They also said the 30-day timeframe for them to close and improve wasn't enough to find solutions for their employees.