The proposal looks like it is proceeding nationwide this year, pushed by the country’s new soft power panel and endorsed by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin. It means that from December or towards the end of the year, 4 am opening hours are likely in all popular tourist hotspot zones, including Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, Ko Samui and Chiang Mai.
Bangkok’s local authority chief, on Monday, endorsed a proposal developed by the National Soft Power panel and proposed with the support of Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin through the Ministry of Tourism and Sports to allow later opening hours for Thailand’s famed nightlife operators in selected tourist hotspots.
On Monday, the Governor of Bangkok, Chatchart Sitthiphan, revealed that the city authorities had no objection to plans put forward last week by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports to allow extended opening hours for entertainment venues in key zones until 4 am to stimulate tourism and the local economy.
Mr Chatchart, speaking at Bangkok City Hall in the Phra Nakhon district of the capital, told reporters that the matter had come up for discussion at the National Soft Power Strategy Committee, which is chaired by the Prime Minister but overseen by Deputy Chairman Paetongtarn Shinawatra or Ung Ing, the daughter of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
The committee had its first meeting on Wednesday, October 4th, 2023.
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The proposal to extend nightlife opening hours for tourist hotspots, including Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket and Ko Samui, is believed to have come from the National Soft Power Strategy Committee, which has also tasked local authorities with developing strategies to improve security around the measure.
The proposal was announced by the Tourism Ministry late last week.
On Monday, it received the support of Bangkok Governor Mr Chatchart, who said strict zoning concerning the scheme would be necessary, as well as robust security protocols.
The security measures being discussed include clear guidelines for entertainment centre operators relating to noise levels and a strict policing policy concerning the sale and distribution of drugs and accessibility to these areas by young people.
Mr Chatchart said that if planners could establish practical and clear guidelines, the proposal would lead to a healthier environment as many operators are already operating illegally at these hours.
Governor plans to allow new late-night hours in December ahead of New Year’s celebrations
The proposed extended opening hours would benefit many small businesses and vendors, such as people selling food and transport services.
Mr Charchart said for Bangkok, the best way forward would be to experiment with the 4 am opening hours from the beginning of 2024.
‘It is expected that the most appropriate time to experiment with opening entertainment venues until 4 am is during the New Year Festival around December,’ the governor disclosed.
Plans for the extended opening hours are being worked on by the Ministry of the Interior, which is trying to establish suitable locations for pilot operations likely to be existing hotspots popular with foreign tourists.
Ministry of the Interior in the loop on the proposal with Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul underlining the need for strict policing of drugs
Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Mr Anutin Charnvirakul confirmed the plan last Thursday and followed the imprimatur Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin.
The new dispensation would extend the late-night opening period in selected tourist areas from 2 am to 4 am.
Deputy Prime Minister Anutin, whose Bhumjaithai Party led the legalisation of marijuana last year, said the pilot scheme plan would require cooperation between the police and business sector.
Like Governor Chatchart in Bangkok, Deputy Prime Minister Anutin emphasised the desirability of clear protocols and plans for security.
He said it was important that entertainment centres and nightlife operators carefully screen their customers for admittance.
Police chief also making preparations
The planned late-night opening hours were given the green light also by newly installed National Police Chief, General Torsak Sukwimol, who said the Royal Thai Police stood ready to cooperate with the government’s initiative.
The Police Chief said it was important to have clear regulations for the late-night operators in the hotspot zones and those operating in other areas without the extended hours simultaneously.
The proposal was also given the thumbs up by Mr Sanga Ruangwattanakul, the President of the Ko San Road Business Association.
His body is meeting this week and has proposed to the government that the excise rate for entrepreneurs in the business be reduced from 10% to 3%.
Business leaders support the move but want tax concessions, while anti-alcohol activists oppose
Mr Sanga pointed out that an excise tax was already levied on the manufacturers of alcohol products.
According to his body, it should not be charged twice to retailers in the trade, as this represented an example of double taxation.
Several groups in Thailand, including anti-alcohol activists, oppose the move towards extended nightlife hours.
Opponents include the Network for Quality of Life, which staged several vociferous protests last November when the then Minister of Tourism and Sports Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn again made the case for later opening hours.
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At that time, a pilot was run in Phuket, where bars and nightlife centres on the island could open until 4 am.