Thailand: New bill aims to demonopolize the beer market

After winning the most seats in May 14 general elections, Thailand's social democratic and progressive Move Forward party agreed on measures with potential coalition partners on Monday to "abolish monopolies and promote fair competition in all industries, such as alcoholic beverages".

This measure could endanger Thailand’s long-standing duopoly, with Boon Rawd (Singha) that controls 58% of the beer market followed by ThaiBev (Chang) at 34 %. The third biggest beer maker in the country, Thai Asia Pacific Brewery, holds only a marginal market share of 5% according to Krungsri Research.

Taopiphop Limjittrakorn, 34, a MP for Move Forward, is driving liberalization in Thailand's beer market. He has become a beer activist after spending a night in jail for breaking a law that makes home brewing illegal in Thailand. “Ever since, I have been determined to change the law,” Taopiphop says. "The progressive alcohol bill is not only a bill, it is a political project," he says.

Move Forward is emphasizing the "3Ds" of demilitarization, demonopolization, and decentralization, and aims to remove high entry barriers to the market that favor the existing companies. Among other things, it is currently required to have a capacity to produce at least 10,000 hectoliters of beer annually to open a brewery. This is a big hurdle for many start-ups.

The core of the reform is an amendment to the excise laws, widely dubbed the Progressive Liquor Bill. After failing to make it through parliament last November, the chances after the recent elections are now much bigger. However, the prospect of a Move Forward-led government is still uncertain due to a constitutional provision favoring parties linked to the military.

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