New alcohol production bill passes first reading

Parliament approved on Wednesday (8 June) a bill proposing amendments to the Excise Tax law, commonly known as the Progressive Liquor bill, to allow small- and medium-scale breweries to enter the alcohol market.

Taopiphop Limjittrakorn (Third from right) and other Move Forward MPs speaking at a press conference after parliament approved the Progressive Liquor bill

The bill was proposed by Move Forward Party MP Taopiphop Limjittrakorn, a homebrewer-turned-MP who was once arrested in 2017 for producing beer. It has been on the parliamentary agenda since November 2020. In February 2022, parliament voted to forward it to the Cabinet for a 60-day consideration period. The Cabinet later rejected it on the grounds that liquor production for consumption should be subjected to safety regulations and that the Ministry of Finance can amend some ministerial regulations so the people’s liberty is not excessively restricted and alcohol production is still controlled without amending the Excise Tax Act.

At the end of the 60-day consideration period, the bill automatically returned to parliament according to the 2019 Rules of Procedure of the House of Representatives, which states that the House Speaker may enter a bill which has been forwarded to the Cabinet for consideration onto the parliamentary agenda after 60 days have lapsed even though the Cabinet has not returned it.

After spending 3 hours debating the bill, parliament voted to approve the bill at its first reading with 178 votes for the bill and 137 votes against it. An ad-hoc committee will now be formed to work on the bill. It still needs to be approved by parliament twice more and by the Senate once before it can become law.

If the bill becomes law, the Excise Tax Act would be amended so that homebrewers who do not intend to produce alcohol for sale, no longer need to get a licence, and home alcohol production would no longer be a punishable offense. 

The amendments would also allow small- and medium-scale breweries to enter the alcohol market, since anyone would be able to get a brewery licence without having to meet a minimum production capacity requirement. Community distilleries can also be established without being subjected to machine power or employee number limitations in order to boost the production of traditional Thai liquor. 

Under the current Excise Tax Act, homebrewing without a licence is punishable with 6 months in prison or a fine of up to 100,000 baht, or both. The 2017 Ministerial Regulations on Alcohol Production, issued according to the Excise Tax Act, also only allows companies registered in Thailand to apply for alcohol production licences, with the exception of distilled spirits, traditional liquor, and fermented liquor other than beer.

Under these ministerial regulations, companies requesting beer production licences must have an authorized capital of at least 10 million baht and at least 10 million baht in shares or investment. To get a licence, brewpubs must also have a production capacity of between 100,000 and 1,000,000 litres per year, while other beer production factories must have a capacity of at least 10 million litres per year.

Whiskey, brandy, and gin production factories must have a capacity of at least 30,000 litres per day to get a licence, while factories producing other types of liquor must have a capacity of at least 90,000 litres per day.

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