At the start of the New year period, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation made a surprise announcement that all national parks in Thailand would be alcohol-free zones.They cited the recent case of a rowdy student drinking party in Khao Yai National Park where someone was stabbed to death. At first we thought that this was just going to be a temporary ban over the new year period. However, it is now clear that they intend for national parks in Thailand to be alcohol free zones for ever. This follows on the heels of the ban on alcohol in temples a few years back.
I personally agree on this blanket ban on alcohol in the national parks. These places should be reserved for enjoying the natural beauty. The last thing we want is to have this natural wonder to be spoiled by a drunken party with loud music scaring off the wildlife. I know not everyone abuses alcohol and want to quietly drink beer with their friends. However, it is a small price to pay in order to preserve the national parks. Some people will undoubtedly complain that this is another nail in the coffin for tourism. But, the fact of the matter is, there are already too many visitors and many of these parks have suffered irreversible damage. Maybe banning smoking and drinking in parks is a step in the right direction.
There are currently 110 national parks in Thailand, which meet the criteria of outstanding natural value and scenic attraction, without human habitat, and comprising an area not smaller than 10 square kilometers. People are now not allowed to buy or consume alcohol in these parks. Violators will be subject to a jail term of up to one month or a fine of up to 1,000 baht, or both. However, as we all know, laws like this won’t work unless enforced. They have already made an exception to the national park on Koh Samet island. The argument is that some of the land has been rented out legally to private businesses. I am sure that is the case elsewhere too. And what about those hotels and golf courses which have encroached on national park land?
What do you think? Should smoking and drinking be banned in all national parks?