* Excerpted from on 04 Feb 2004.

Thai bar owners howl at forced midnight closings of nightspots

dpa -- -- --
110631 GMT Feb 04 nnnn

Bangkok (dpa) - Thai nightclub and bar owners howled in protest Wednesday and predicted economic ruin following a government decision to force most of the country's entertainment venues to shut down at midnight.

The cabinet decision on Tuesday was part of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's "social order" crusade aimed at discouraging late-night carousing by Thai youngsters.

The government also approved a 10 p.m. curfew for children under 18 beginning on March 29.

But businessmen said the effect of the new legislation would be to curtail night entertainment for adults, particularly foreign tourists.

"These reduced business hours will have a big impact on our tourist business," said Dang Jetsaro, chairman of Entertainment Club Association of Phuket, in southern Thailand. "Normally tourists don't go out until about 11 p.m.

"Now they'll have less then an hour to spend at entertainment venues. This measure will have a domino effect, causing big disruptions to the all businesses in Phuket."

Dang said the owners and employees of about 500 Phuket entertainment venues plan to hold a demonstration against the early closing rules on February 15.

Under the new rules, which were due to come into force on March 1, all nightspots will have to shut at midnight unless they are located in three designated entertainment zones in Bangkok - Patpong, Ratchadapisek road and Royal City Avenue (RCA).

Ironically, RCA is known as Bangkok's biggest gathering place for teenagers and others whose virtue the legislation is aimed at protecting.

Internationally famous night entertainment areas like Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy are outside the designated nightlife zones and will be forced to shut their doors at midnight instead of their current 2 a.m. mandatory closing time.

Somyos Suthangkoon, who heads an association of Bangkok bar and nightclub owners, said the restricted hours will cause confusion and widespread economic suffering by business owners and employees.

Other businessmen argued the new rules will be unenforceable and will encourage the payment of bribes to police in return for allowing nightspots to remain open after midnight."