Craft Beer Enthusiast and Lawmaker Takes Aim at Breaking Up Big Booze in Thailand
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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