This week, Thailand has undertaken three major legislative processes that are being proposed and/or implemented as laws: Cannabis decriminalization, LGBTQ’s Civil partnership bill, and small brewery legalization. These could mark the first historic steps of social changes in Thailand. However, the Thai public is closely monitoring whether such signs of progress could lead to further positive movement in the future.
On Thursday, Thailand has become the first country in Asia to legalize the cultivation and possession of cannabis and hemp. It has been the major goal of the Public Health Minister, Anutin Chanvirakul, as one of his Thai Party’s policies to make it legal for health, recreational, and commercial purposes at the domestic level as well as to boost the “medical tourism” industry after the long Covid-19 hardship.
The plant registration can be done in the blink of an eye within three steps, making more than 100,000 names already registered on the first day of the launch. Parts of the legalized cannabis are now added to many foods and beverages menus and seen on sale, offline and online.
Despite the government’s repetitive clarifications of which parts of the plants are and are not legalized prior to the kick-off, public concerns are constantly raised regarding the possibility of substance misuse, consumers’ irresponsibility, and illegal high-THC cannabis trading, especially among young teenagers. Although a Medical Association in Thailand previously urged the government to put instructions and information on benefits and harms due to similar concerns, such official and written guidelines are being publicized by the authorities – only verbal reiteration by the Public Health Ministry and the Food and Drugs Administration not to misuse cannabis and hemp as it is not the purpose of the legalization.
Another significant progress in legal craft beers in Thailand is also giving a slight ray of hope after the Parliament has voted in favor of the “Progressive Liquor Act” which seeks an end to the monopoly of big breweries and an opportunity for homegrown breweries to enter the liquor market.
The proposal was introduced by Move Forward Party’s MP Taopiphop Limjittrakorn – a craft beer lover who was arrested for brewing craft beer without a license in early 2017 and determined to change the law ever since. The bill, if it passed further scrutinization, will allow alcohol producers to legally produce beverages for domestic consumption without asking for legal licenses. They will not require complicated procedures such as company registration certificates and capital requirements nor identify the production capacity and the number of employees when starting the business.
The Act is now being scrutinized by 25 members of a special committee founded by the government. However, this cannot be put to rest as the draft had been previously denied and delayed several times before during the government of Prayut Chan-O’Cha. But it undeniably says that the first approval is a remarkable progression of Thailand’s brewery industry since the new Excise Tax Act emerged in 2017.
Another draft bill that is being proposed to the Parliament for consideration includes the “Civil Partnership” bill that was initially approved by the Cabinet Committee this week. The approval of the bill could mark Thailand as the first country in Southeast Asia to legalize same-sex unions.
The Civil Partnership Bill allows same-sex couples to register their partnership and legal amendments in several aspects of relationships/commitments. After previously being resolved by the parliament earlier this year, it will be vetted again as the draft had been thoroughly studied by the Justice Ministry, several members of LGBTQ groups, religious groups, and academics.
As of today, there are no reports on the Parliament’s consideration of the bill yet but a large group of LGBTQ+ supporters is rejecting it and demanding the “Marriage Equality Bill”, drafted by the Move Forward Party, which the Cabinet had earlier rejected in March before instead approving the Civil Partnership Bill by the Justice Ministry.
According to their statements, the Marriage Equality Bill would allow same-sex individuals to register their marriage and become married couples like heterosexual married couples while the Civil Partnership only allow them to register their civil partnership and defines them as civil “partners”, not “married” couples. Slight differences in the legal provisions are written, which reflects how the government treated and recognized the LGBTQ+ people as citizens.
As previously mentioned that the bill has not yet been put into consideration, one could hardly know what the result would be despite the fact that it was proposed by the government ministry, Party leader Anutin Charnvirakul even stated beforehand that some of his MPs will vote against the draft as it contradicted religious beliefs and principles. Obsolete as it may sound, the reasons may be the priority concern among senior government MPs and senators that could lead to another draft objection.
For now, signs of progressive ideas and policies are slowly creeping to the forefront in Thailand and may bring a further wave of change, but only time will tell.
The original version of this was published on our sister website, The Pattaya News, also owned by TPN media, here.
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