Buddhism, the religion of some 95% of the subjects of Thailand, calls for moderation in nearly all things – opium, for example, was for centuries accepted as a means of controlling pain, used in moderation. Those activities not proscribed (e.g. theft or murder) are accepted in, once again, moderation. This is a very humane approach and enables people whose lives were if not nasty, brutish and short at least often difficult, unrewarding and tedious to enjoy the occasional celebration. It is no surprise that animist rituals throughout the country (throughout mainland Southeast Asia more or less) feature the drinking of rice wine and feasting on pigs to recognize important events (e.g. weddings, successful births) and the passing of important dates (e.g. harvests, the monsoon’s arrival).
Of course, there is potential for people to abuse all things and excessive alcohol consumption causes many health and social issues. In other countries which have turned to paternalist authoritarianism, notably South Korea, alcohol (soju, specifically) was manufactured in large amounts and the price kept low as a means of keeping the self-sacrificing working classes compliant in the continual urging to work harder to save the country. There was some justification to this since it is very likely that had South Korea not managed to outdistance its neighbour to the north in industrial and economic terms, then further invasion attempts would have occurred.
In Thailand, the attempt to control the behaviour of the working classes has occurred comparatively recently, although there have always been small abstinence movements largely for the middle classes. The movement occurred as part of the anti-government protests which began in 2005 and has now turned into a fully fledged anti-democracy proto-fascist movement prepared to use violence to overthrow the state. In 2005, a resurgence of ostentatious nationalism and loyalty to the throne through wearing yellow shirts and protesting that loyalty very publicly. One extremist Buddhist school of thought has been led by Chamlong Srimuang, one of the ringleaders of the anti-democracy movement, who protested against the attempt by Thai Bev, one of the country’s leading companies, from registering on the local stock exchange (the SET). Protests were so tediously persistent that Thai Bev listed in Singapore instead. Now it is planning, according to newspaper reports anyway, to attempt once more to list on the SET. The weekend threatens bloodshed on the streets of Bangkok and throughout the country (which will be largely unreported). Whether religious groups again seek to involve themselves remains to be seen.