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The traditional sight of rural Thai men staggering around in piss-stained clothes and mumbling profanities may be under threat. Lao Khao producers in Sa Eiab district of Phrae in the north of Thailand fear that any further increases in tax on their only recently legalised industry could lead to unprecedented levels of clarity amongst the should-be-working classes of Thailand as they are priced out of the oblivion market.

Lao Khao is the traditional moonshine of Thailand that went legal and even enjoyed great initial success as part of the One Tambon, One Product (OTOP) campaign. However, with legality comes taxes, and these are beginning to price some alkies out of the market.

Producers have already lost some customers after increasing their prices in response to earlier taxes. Sales are down by as much as 30% with some fire water makers.

Sa Eiab lao khao producers fear that they will be left with no other option than to return to illicit production unless alcohol tax laws are softened. This is highly unlikely as Thailand maintains a hard-line stance in its increasingly determined war on alcohol.

There seems to be little in the way of a defence for a product that wipes out brain cells at an alarming rate and puts drinkers at the head of the queue when Village Idiot auditions come up.

However, proponents point out that lao khao production is a cottage industry that keeps 200 small factories operating, provides revenue for many families and even employs local teenagers, thus keeping them out of trouble. The same could be said for Golden Triangle opium processors, so the government is unlikely to soften its stance unless it is to leave itself wide open to accusations of hypocrisy.

However, considering that last year alone, the government earned 63 million baht in tax revenue from Sa Eiab lao khao, hypocrisy might yet be deemed a worthwhile pay-off for losing a little face.

The production of lao khao is centred on Sa Eiab district, where the local herbs that give their lao khao its “pleasant taste” (not my choice of words) are mixed with fermenting sticky rice to make Thailand’s mother of all moonshines.

The locals are also at risk from losing these unique herbs as government plans to build the Kaeng Sua Ten dam will flood the forest from where they gather their secret mix of plants.

All in all, the locals fear a government conspiracy to deprive them of their livelihood and many alkies of their dose of oblivion.

While Naked Farang has every sympathy with anyone trying to make an honest living, and we do like an occasional drink, we have nothing but disdain for this bottled brain-damage. We have disagreed with the government on several issues regarding their war on alcohol but if the production of lao khao can be discontinued, we believe that it can only be beneficial for Thailand.

If this is to be successful, the lao khao producers of Sa Eiab should be provided with an alternative and equally lucrative form of income. Otherwise, the problem will simply return underground. Whether the government is moral enough to forgo 63 million baht a year in taxes to support a principle is open to debate.

Paul Snowdon – October 14, 2007

Related article – Ronnie’s Rant: A Bitter Man

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Have your say...

31 Mar 2013, 12:43
Hi,Chirs! I am writing mesasge for the first time. I just searched the information for new branch of Dean & Deluca in BKK and reached this blog! eggnoodles,,,sounds nice!Kao mok kai, I love it,too. I often eat it at the restaurant that is near the clock tower in chatuchak weekend market, aroi maak kaa.
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