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Archive for the ‘Thailand Business’ Category

3rd October 2017

It recently came to the attention of the administration of this web log that the Royal Thai Gazette has recently published an announcement regarding changes to the methodology in which Value Added Tax (VAT) is calculated in Thailand. Below please find an English translation of this announcement:

Page 6

Book 134 Part 102 Kor                         Royal Thai Government Gazette                  2 October 2017

(Official Emblem)

ROYAL DECREE

Issued under the Revenue Code

Regarding Value Added Tax Rate Reduction (No. 646)

B.E.2560 (2017)

————————————-

His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun,

Given on 30 September 2017

of the second year in the present reign.

His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun is graciously pleased to proclaim that:

Whereas it is appropriate to adjust the Value Added Tax Rate Reduction.

By virtue of Section 175 of Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand and Section 80 of the Revenue Code which amended by Revenue Code Amendment Act (No. 30) B.E. 2534 (1991) Be it; therefore, enacted by His Majesty the King, as follows:

Section 1. This Royal Decree shall be called the “Royal Decree under the Revenue Code, regarding Value Added Tax Rate Reduction (No. 646) B.E.2560 (2017)”

Section 2. This Royal Decree shall come into force on and from the date of 1st October B.E.2560 (2017).

Section 3. The order of the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order No. 65/2559 on the Reduction of Value Added Tax Rate dated on 1st November B.E.2559 (2016) shall be repealed.

Section 4. There shall be reduced the Value Added Tax Rate in accordance with Section 80 of the Revenue Code and shall withhold at the following details;

(1) In the rate of 6.3 percent of sale, service or import in all kind thereof which shall be effective from the date of 1st October B.E.2560 (2017) to 30th September B.E.2561 (2018).

(2) In the rate of 9 percent of sale, service or import in all kind thereof which shall be effective on and from the date of 1st October B.E.2561 (2018).

Section 5. The Minister of Finance shall have the care and charge of this Royal Decree.

Countersigned

Colonel-General Prayut Chan-o-cha

Prime Minister

 

For those interested in viewing the Thai version of the original announcement please click HERE to go to the view the PDF from official website of the Royal Thai Gazette. Please note that this translation is provided for informational purposes only and should not be viewed as a definitive legal interpretation of Thai law.

Two provisions are notable within this announcement, the first is that the VAT is to be lowered from 7% to 6.3% for the next year. Meanwhile, from October of 2018 onward the effective VAT tax rate is apparently to be 9%. This is an overall increase from the current rate of 7% which was the rate prior to the recent announcement.

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21st September 2017

In recent weeks various sources have discussed the changes to tax policy in Thailand, specifically with reference to changes in the excise tax regime. Specifically, with regard to excise tax (also described by some as a “sin tax”) there was discussion before the new measures were implemented concerning the possibility that the new taxes would be relatively significant. Ultimately, events have transpired which has shown that the new measures have not resulted in a substantial increase in terms of taxes passed on to the consumer. The increased taxes have turned out to be rather nominal, but the methodology by which taxes are calculated has changed. Therefore, the end consumer may not see much of a change, but those further up-stream in terms of distribution are dealing with issues associated with the new calculation method.

Meanwhile, other recent measures have taken effect throughout 2017 which is changing the way revenue collection and tax enforcement is conducted. First, it appears that there will be an increase in VAT (Value Added Tax) placed upon items purchased online in Thailand. It appears Thai officials are keen to increase revenues from the digital economy. In the past, the revenue collection system of Thailand was geared to deal with tax collection in a manner more suitable to the pre-internet online economy. Where once there were a number of exemptions for online purchases now those exemptions are being phased out as revenue authorities are coming to grips with the fact that more economic transactions are occurring online.

Finally, it is worth noting that so-called e-filing of certain corporate tax documentation is now mandatory in Thailand. Paperwork such as the audited financial statement are required to be filed online. To those with experience dealing with tax matters in other jurisdictions this new requirement may seem long past due as many other jurisdictions have conducted such matters online for years (in some cases decades). However this development has only come to pass in Thailand in 2017. In the future it appears likely that many corporate tax filings will be perfected online.

In conclusion, all of the above information, when taken together, illustrates a trend which has been progressing for a few years now. Namely, an drive to increase the efficiency and improve the methodology by which taxes are assessed and collected in Thailand. It seems logical to infer that this trend will culminate in the full transformation of the Thai tax system and that said system will be thereafter much more similar to internal revenue services in countries in the more developed world. This will likely occur before the back drop of an increasingly dynamic Thai economic and it seems sensible to expect that revenue to Thai state coffers will increase thereby.

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24th April 2017

In recent weeks it has come to this blogger’s attention that some significant changes with respect to the duration of leases in Thailand have been not only proposed, but are apparently nearing a point where they might be implemented. While The Nation has taken note of the fact that various stakeholders in the Thai real estate sector have welcomed the possibility of 99 year leases for foreign investors in the Thailand property market (a proposal which has many restrictions in and of itself, including the requirements that such lease may only be possible in large industrial developments operating with the proposed Eastern Economic Corridor or EEC). Meanwhile the Bangkok Post has reported that various activist groups in Thailand are opposed to the proposal that 99 year leases be implemented. In this blogger’s view the more important issue is the fact that the implementation of new laws regarding Thai commercial leases appears very near at hand. To quote directly from the aforementioned Bangkok Post article:

[T]he government approved the land rental extension to 99 years, a policy change that will affect about 10 million people who are in need of land, he said. The cabinet’s resolution was made in a bid to promote the eastern special economic development zone to draw international investment linking the country more closely to the Asean community and beyond…

It should be reiterated that the leases at issue are of a commercial nature and appear only to be possible within specified zones, but the change is notable since for years 30 year leases were the norm in Thailand and the recent changes seem to mark a substantial shift in policy thinking. It should be noted that recently proposed changes may make it possible for foreign nationals to obtain a 50 year lease in Thailand on residential property. Clearly, all of these developments bode well for those wishing to invest in the Thailand property market.

Not everything is developing in a positive manner for everyone with respect to the use of real estate in Thailand. In recent weeks, there has been a great deal of clamor arising from the fact that officials affiliated with the Thai government have announced plans to severely curtail, if not outright ban, street food vendors in the Kingdom. To quote a recent article on the Voice of America website quoting an assistant to the Governor of Bangkok:

“The street vendors have seized the pavement space for too long and we already provide them space to sell food and other products legally in the market,” the assistant said. “So there will be no let-up in this operation – every street vendor will have to move out.”

It should be noted that what may appear to be “street food vendors” may in fact just be sellers of food in an open air environment, but occurring on private property in Thailand. Therefore, this blogger does not expect that outdoor dining on traditional Thai fare will disappear any time soon. However, it seems logical to infer that street vendors will likely be making deals with owners of Bangkok property to use their land in order to sell food. A question posed by many: why are authorities in Thailand doing this? Many of those posing this question do so for different reasons. Some note that street food is part of the tapestry of Bangkok life. Meanwhile, others note that restricting street food could have a detrimental impact upon tourism. Although this blogger does not necessarily agree with all of the restrictions being proposed with respect to street food two things should be noted. First, the thoroughfares of Bangkok have a tendency to become crowded and street food vendors had more than a tendency to exacerbate this crowding. Second, Thai authorities have continued to note issues related to the raising of government revenue and it is this blogger’s opinion that the restrictions on street food may be the government’s initiative to, at least indirectly, encourage some vendors to engage in the more regulated economy. The Value Added Tax accounts for a significant portion of Thailand’s overall revenue. Therefore, if authorities can encourage more businesses to become part of the VAT system then it stands to reason that the government could raise further revenue. This blogger knows for a fact that there are those street vendors who do pay VAT, but the percentage of such individuals in relation to the overall number of street vendors is quite small. Therefore, it seems likely that while on the one hand Thai authorities are making the streets in Bangkok more easily accessible the upshot may be a benefit to government coffers in the long run.

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11th March 2017

It recently came to the attention of the administration of this web log that the subject of the Value Added Tax (VAT) has been a hot news item in Thailand in recent days as the current Prime Minister was noted speculating about the advantages to be gained by the Thai government if the VAT were to be raised one percentage point from the current level of 7% to 8%. To quote directly from The Nation’s website:

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has floated the idea of raising the value-added tax (VAT) rate by one percentage point from the current 7 per cent to 8 per cent to raise an additional Bt100 billion in annual tax revenues to finance various public projects.

Meanwhile, it became unclear from further reports whether the Prime Minister was simply expounding upon the advantages to be gained by an increase in VAT or if a change of policy was being discussed. To quote from the official website of the Bangkok Post:

Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong said the government plans to keep VAT unchanged at 7% for another year when the previous extension of the last period for keeping VAT at 7% ends on Sept 30. VAT would not increase during the term of this government, he added.

Setting aside the issue of what the Prime Minister’s intentions were with respect to his comments regarding VAT increase (and it would appear from this writer’s perspective that he was indeed simply commenting upon the benefits to be garnered by the government should VAT be increased to 8%) it appears that at least for the foreseeable future the VAT in Thailand will not be increased.

For those who have had experience doing business in Thailand VAT is known as a fact of business-life. In fact, those foreign nationals wishing to setup a Company in Thailand are well advised to note that in order to get a Thai work permit associated with such companies the relevant corporate entity oftentimes must be registered for VAT. Therefore, unlike Thai businesses which may or may not require VAT registration, foreign companies in Thailand will often be VAT registered and therefore an increase in VAT will have a substantial impact upon such enterprises.

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of recent changes to American policy with respect to US Immigration it appears that a number of new Immigration Judges have been impaneled to deal with the staggering backlog of United States Immigration cases in the Immigration Courts. To quote directly from Reuters News Service:

The Department of Justice is deploying 50 judges to immigration detention facilities across the United States, according to two sources and a letter seen by Reuters and sent to judges on Thursday. The department is also considering asking judges to sit from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., split between two rotating shifts, to adjudicate more cases, the sources said. A notice about shift times was not included in the letter.

Clearly, the new Administration in the USA is stringently enforcing immigration laws as evidenced by the recent stories of increased deportations, travel bans, and heightened scrutiny of immigrants (both Green Card holders and other immigrants) at ports of entry in the USA. It seems rather reasonable to infer that US Immigration matters are likely to be more difficult and time consuming to process in coming weeks and months.

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11th July 2016

In a previous posting on this blog the issue of single person incorporation of Thai companies was discussed. Back in September of 2015 it was revealed that the officials with government offices such as the Ministry of Commerce and the Department of Business Development were reviewing the possibility of amending the existing corporate laws in Thailand so as to allow an incorporated entity such as a limited company to be owned by one individual person. This would be similar to legislation in countries such as the United States which allows individuals, acting alone, to set up structures such as limited liability companies on their own.

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that some new developments have taken place with regard to this topic. To quote directly from the website of The Nation Newspaper:

THE Business Development Department has reviewed a new draft law and added in the document that a foreign individual cannot register a business in the Kingdom. The move aims to prevent |foreign enterprises from competing against Thais in many businesses that should be preserved for Thais. The original draft, known as “one person, one company,” states only that a single person can register a business in Thailand.

As readers of this blog and website may be aware there are many provisions enshrined in Thai law designed to protect Thai enterprises from foreign competition in Thailand. Most notable is the Foreign Business Act which specifically designates the type of business activities which are restricted to foreign nationals. As the website of Coconuts Bangkok noted:

This addition to the draft is designed to keep foreign businesses from competing against Thai companies in the long list of industries that the government has deemed reserved for Thai nationals only.

The aforementioned list of industries is detailed in the provisions of the Foreign Business Act. Currently, Thai law requires that a limited company have at least 3 shareholders in order to be registered pursuant to Thai law. This proposed law would change those provisions. It appears that Thailand would be the third country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to adopt this type of change while Malaysia is apparently reviewing similar legislation.

The final draft of this proposed law remains to be seen, but it seems logical to assume that easing of corporate regulation of Thai company structures will result in increased business activity.

It should be noted that pursuant to the terms of the US-Thai Treaty of Amity, it is possible for American citizens to own virtually 100% of their companies in Thailand notwithstanding the provisions of the Foreign Business Act. It remains to be seen how these changes to the law will impact the registration of so called Amity Treaty Companies.

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4th June 2016

In recent weeks the Bangkok Post has reported on a great many changes that are currently being undertaken by officials in the Thai government. In fact, it appears that the judicial system in Thailand has been the subject of rather drastic reform in recent years. To quote directly from an article posted on the Bangkok Post official website on May 18th:

Up to 35 laws concerning judicial affairs have been amended over the past two years…Of the 35 laws amended in the past two years, 11 have come into effect, he said. They are the land transport act; the bankruptcy act, the act on prevention and suppression of terrorism financing; the the anti-money laundering act; the justice fund act; the ministerial, departmental, and divisional improvement act; the act on amendments of the Civil Procedure Code. Also on the list are the act on the procedure of suspect detentions under the 1963 and the 2016 versions of the Criminal Code…

The reforms noted above have only been implemented relatively recently so it may take some time before the effects of these measures can be readily ascertained. At the same time, measures have been put in place in an attempt to thwart transnational criminals in the form of protocol changes regarding the sharing of information regarding criminal matters arising in Thailand. It also appears that new measures have been promulgated in an effort to curb corruption. Apparently, the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission is poised to begin more assiduous corruption suppression initiatives.

The judiciary is not the only sector seeing reform initiatives recently. The tax authorities appear to be taking measures to make the Thai tax system more equitable, especially for those employed by Thai companies operating outside of Thailand. To quote from an article from the aforementioned website from May 23rd:

The Finance Ministry is poised to adjust the personal income tax system for Thais working abroad and foreigners who work here to create fairness and attract foreign direct investment…According to the Revenue Code, employees working for companies incorporated in Thailand are subject to personal income tax regardless of where they work…The way Thailand charges personal income tax is based on where employers have been set up rather than the source of income as in other countries…Thailand’s taxation of personal income is not fair and needs to be adjusted…

It appears that the Permanent Secretary plans to propose an amendment to the Revenue code to address the currently perceived unfairness in the Revenue Code. How such a proposed amendment will ultimately fare remains to be seen, but should the amendment be adopted it would be beneficial for some employees of corporations incorporated in Thailand.

In light of these stories it is interesting that the Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand has noted Thailand’s readiness to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (also known as the TPP). For those unaware, the TPP is a trade agreement composed of 12 countries (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam). Other nations have expressed interest in joining the TPP in recent years. To quote the Bangkok Post article on this issue from June 1st:

Mr Somkid said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has confirmed the country’s readiness to join the TPP, and a committee chaired by Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn has been set up to prepare for the move…”Thailand cannot afford to be complacent. We can take lessons from other member countries. At this point, we are ready to join the TPP. It depends on when they will accept us…”

Clearly, officials in the Thai government seem enthusiastic about the prospect of joining the TPP. However, the article goes on to note that measures are being taken to assess the ramifications of Thailand becoming a TPP member. It was also noted that Thailand would monitor the effect the TPP has had on other countries prior to making firm commitments to join the TPP. It seems likely that analysis of the experiences of Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore within the TPP framework will be utilized in order to better determine Thailand’s official petition to join the trade bloc and the timing thereof.

Thailand is clearly taking steps on many fronts to bring governance and regulations into line with global standards. When and how these efforts will bear fruit remains to be seen, but it is definitely an interesting time for students of Thai legal and regulatory matters.

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2nd February 2016

In a recent article in the Bangkok Post it was noted that the Prime Minister of Thailand is poised to travel to the United States to attend a summit between the United States of America and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN):

[H]e will join Asean leaders attending the first stand-alone US-Asean summit in the United States on Feb 15-16 in response to US President Barack Obama’s invitation… The meeting was called when Asean and the US upgraded their level of cooperation from dialogue partner to strategic partner in November last year…

This news comes upon the heels of a recent study which found that Thailand has major issues with skilled labor when compared to other jurisdictions in the region. To quote directly from The Nation newspaper:

According to the World Bank (WB), Thailand will face the biggest shortage of skilled labour in the Asean region…Yongyud Wongpiromsarn, director of the committee on education reform, said area-based education was key to redesigning the education system so it meets local demands…

Although it would appear that education reform remains key to creating more appropriately skilled labor in the Thai market, Thai officials also seem to be implementing legislation in order to improve the overall competitiveness of the Thai business sector. To quote from another article in the Bangkok Post:

The cabinet yesterday approved the draft amendments to the Trade Competition Act aimed at enhancing competition and reducing business monopolies and political meddling…

Notwithstanding the fact that Thailand has competitiveness issues it seems to this blogger that the current moment may be an auspicious time to invest or start a new business venture in the Kingdom. Although many news outlets have covered the fact that Thailand has been dealing with political and economic hurdles in recent years, this blogger’s opinion is that Thailand remains one of the best places to conduct business in Southeast Asia. While other countries may have more room for growth, Thailand has the advantage of substantial infrastructure and  can act as a corporate headquarters for a regional operation which could encompass places like: Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, and even Malaysia or Vietnam. Meanwhile, Bangkok may soon be the entrepot for overland trade between China and the other ASEAN nations. This seems especially likely in light of the fact that a high speed rail system will be put in place linking China, Laos, and Thailand by rail. Bangkok appears set to act as the focal point for the exchange of goods and services between all of ASEAN and Southern China.

Clearly, Thailand has obstacles to overcome economically, but it would be unwise to discount Thailand as a place to do business, especially as getting into this market presently could compound later economic benefits.

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5th November 2015

During the month of October 2015, it came to this blogger’s attention that the Thai government began to heavily enforce regulations against those overstaying their Thai visa and those utilizing nominees in order to control companies in Thailand. In a recent article on the Khaosod English website it was noted that more than 9000 people were arrested and detained pending deportation for overstaying their visas. The article went on to note:

The penalties announced Sunday are identical to regulations announced by the immigration bureau last year that have been in effect since Aug. 17, 2014. Foreign nationals who remain in the country more than 90 days after their visa expires are to be banned for one year. Those who overstay for one year, three years or five years are forbidden from re-entering the country for three years, five years and 10 years respectively. If they don’t turn themselves in and are instead caught by police, those who have overstayed less than a year would be blacklisted for five years while those with over a year face a 10-year ban…

The penalties referred to above were apparently applied to those detained in the aforementioned roundup and it would appear that such measures are likely to be applied to overstayers in the future. For this reason it is strongly recommended that those wishing to stay in Thailand obtain a visa and leave within the specified period of validity unless a Thai visa extension is obtained. There are many types of Thai visa categories including business visas, retirement visas, O visas for family members of Thai nationals, and the greatly anticipated long stay tourist visa which is set to begin being issued in mid-November.

Meanwhile, Thai officials in the Ministry of Commerce seem to be implementing stricter enforcement of rules regarding the use of nominee shareholders in Thai companies. Under the Foreign Business Act, foreign nationals are not permitted to use Thai nominee shareholders in order to circumvent the restrictions on foreign ownership of Thai companies. Those caught violating this law can face fines or possible imprisonment. Apparently, officials with the Department of Business Development will be investigating certain companies to determine if nominees are in use. To quote directly from The Nation:

The 10 sectors to be inspected are food and beverage, tourism, property rental, the property trade, car rental, spa, handicraft and souvenir retail, Internet retailing, direct sales, and education consultants. Chainarong said that those sectors would be targeted because it was believed that a high proportion of their businesses were foreign controlled through the use of Thai nominees…

Clearly Thai regulators are becoming increasingly serious regarding the enforcement of Thai law in both the realm of immigration and business. It should be noted that American Citizens are permitted to own 100% of certain types of Thai corporations pursuant to the provisions of the US-Thai Treaty of Amity.

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20th September 2015

In a recent article in the Bangkok Post it was reported that the current government in Thailand is taking measures to foster growth for small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Thailand. It would appear that the present government is eager to provide encouragement for small and medium sized businesses in Thailand. Furthermore it seems as though Thai officials are attempting to position the country as a location of choice for small business start-ups within the greater framework of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). However, of particular interest to this blogger was the mention of possible rule changes with regard to Thai corporate regulations pertaining to Thai Company registration and the shareholdings thereof. To quote the aforementioned article directly:

Mr Pongpun said the authorities were improving regulations on the incorporation of private companies to allow the incorporation of a juristic person registered by only one person.

At present, corporations (also referred to as juristic persons) in Thailand must have a minimum of three (3) shareholders in order to incorporate under Thai law. It should be noted that prior to an amendment to Thai corporate law at approximately the turn of the century it was required that all companies registered in Thailand have a minimum of 7 shareholders in order to incorporate pursuant to Thai law. Many at the time felt that the 7 shareholders requirement was too cumbersome and for that reason the statutorily required number of shareholders was reduced to 3. Since then, there have been those who have noted their belief that allowing Thai corporate structures with only one shareholder would bring Thai corporate law more in line with similar bodies of law globally. For example, in many American jurisdictions Limited Liability Companies or LLCs are only required to have one member/shareholder, while similar Limited Company (Ltd.) structures are allowed in Britain and the Commonwealth nations and many European jurisdictions allow for similar corporate structures as well.

It remains to be seen whether Thai corporate law will be amended to allow for single shareholder corporations in Thailand. It is a good sign that such structures are being considered by Thai officials especially since such structures would be especially beneficial to small business owners in Thailand. Of special note to American readers, pursuant to the provisions of the US-Thai Treaty of Amity it is possible for American Citizens to own 100% of an Amity company registered in Thailand. Should the aforementioned changes take place it could result in Americans being able to own their small business singularly without any Thai shareholders.

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1st August 2015

In recent weeks there has been a great deal of speculation and confusion surrounding the implementation of an alcohol ban in Thailand. Initially it was reported that a new nationwide ordinance was to come into effect whereby no one would be permitted to sell alcohol near schools in Thailand. It was then reported that such an ordinance had in fact been signed. This placed some business proprietors in Thailand into a state of consternation as the effect of the new rules would have significant impact upon their businesses. Furthermore, there were those who speculated that property owners in the relevant areas might lose real estate value in light of the new regulations.

However, Thai officials apparently reversed their decision at the last minute. Notwitstanding the fact that the proposed ordiance was signed by relevant officials, the text of the newly promulgated regulation was apparently not published in the Royal Thai Gazette and it would seem the proposed regulation has been withdrawn for the time being in order to more thoroughly review the overall policy regarding alcohol consumption and distribution in Thailand.

Meanwhile, it should be noted that from the 30th through the 31st of July, Thailand maintained an effective ban on alcohol pursuant to previously enacted legislation barring alcohol sales during significant Buddhist holidays. Notwithstanding the fact that the regulatory changes noted above were rescinded it remains illegal in Thailand (except under narrow circumstances) to sell alcohol during major Buddhist holidays.

In recent years there has been an upsurge in ordinances regarding alcohol sales. It appears that officials in Thailand are attempting to balance the need to maintain tourism with the conservative outlook of the majority of Thai people, especially on the issue of alcohol consumption. Where the balance will ultimately rest remains to be seen, but it is logical to infer that the alcohol laws in Thailand may be altered in the near future. Such changes seem unlikely to be as stringent as the recently proposed rules, but some form of regulatory change may be on the horizon.

Failure to comply with relevant regulations regarding alcohol sales could result in civil and criminal penalties for individuals and companies in Thailand. As of the time of this writing this blogger has been made aware of numerous anecdotes noting heightened police presence in entertainment areas in an effort to suppress alcohol sales during the Buddhist holidays. Thai authorities take violations of alcohol regulations seriously and this is especially the case during major Buddhist holidays in Thailand. Those establishments violating alcohol regulations could see their Thai alcohol licenses suspended or even rescinded depending upon the circumstances of the situation. Liquor sales in Thailand are often a significant component of a restaurant or entertainment venue’s revenue and therefore complying with relevant regulations could prove vital to such businesses in Thailand.

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