Craft Beer-Loving Politician Fights Thailand's Booze Duopoly
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Craft Beer Enthusiast and Lawmaker Takes Aim at Breaking Up Big Booze in Thailand

Craft Beer

Future Forward Party MP and craft beer brewer Taopiphop Limjittrakorn rides a motorcycle on arriving to the parliament to vote for Thailand’s new prime minister, at TOT Plc’ auditorium in Bangkok. (Photo by Chaiwat Subprasom / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

Craft beer has been illegal in Thailand for decades, but with brewer-turned-politician Taopiphop Limjittrakorn’s push to help form the next government, all of that could change.

Limjittrakorn is a part of the progressive-leaning Move Forward party. According to Reuters, the party reached an agreement on Monday with prospective coalition partners to push forward a measure that would abolish monopolies. The Move Forward party won the most seats in a May 14 general election.

Thailand’s beer market is primarily controlled by two companies: Boon Rawd Brewery and ThaiBev.

“The progressive alcohol bill is not only a bill, but a political project,” Limjitrakorn said during an interview with Reuters.

Thailand’s alcoholic drinks market was valued at about $13.97 billion in 2020. Half of that was beer.

Boon Rawd, the maker of Singha, was founded in 1933 and holds approximately a 57.9% share of the beer market. It is privately owned and controlled by the country’s 15th richest family, the Bhirombhakdi family. Thai Bev holds a 34.3% share of the market and is known for its lager, Chang. The entity is owned by Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, who is ranked No. 3 by Forbes amongst Thailand’s wealthiest.

Prior to the new measure being pushed forward by the Move Forward Party, lawmakers could fine and even arrest craft beer enthusiasts for posting images of beer on social media. This happened in April to beer aficionado Artid Sivahansaphan after posting a photo of a beer and evaluating it on Facebook.

Before he turned to politics, Taopiphop Limjittrakorn was arrested in 2017 for brewing craft beer at home and fined 5,500 baht — about $159 — for brewing and owning brewer’s yeast, according to an article in The Guardian.

His motivation for taking on Thailand’s beer duopoly is simple:

“It will let ordinary people do the same business as rich people do,” Limjitrakorn said in an interview with The Guardian.

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Cynthia Mersten is a writer/editor for Whiskey Raiders and has worked in the Beverage Industry for eight years. She started her career in wine and spirits distribution and sold brands like Four Roses, High West and Compass Box to a variety of bars and restaurants in the city she calls home: Los Angeles. Cynthia is a lover of all things related to wine, spirits and story and holds a BA from UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film and Television. Besides writing, her favorite pastimes are photography and watching movies with her husband.