Across Isaan and most of Thailand, government sponsored signs are posted on trees and telephone poles entreating drivers: “Drunk, Don’t drive.” But as villagers often say, “No one ever thinks they’re too drunk to drive!”
The Thai government is attempting to counter an alarming rise in road deaths across the country especially during national festivals and holidays when drunkenness ends in hundreds of fatal crashes. Thai law mandates a required two-hour education seminar when renewing driver’s licenses in which participants watch a heartrending video filled with gruesome accident scenes. Banners sponsored by the royal household are posted in large cities right before holidays entreating people to make their celebrations alcohol free. Sadly however, these efforts have had little effect on behavior.
An excellent study by a doctorate student at Khon Kaen University examined the attitudes of drinking alcohol among Isaan villagers and found what any taxi driver can tell you, namely that Isaan people feel they cannot properly maintain social relationships or fulfill community obligations without alcohol. One 42-year-old woman in the study said, “If I don’t drink, I won’t have any friends to enjoy life with. If we don’t drink, how can we have a good time?” Although most people drink socially in public groups and have a positive view of drinking, consumption of alcohol translates into less money for essential expenses, results in domestic violence, and of course increased road accidents.
If drinking in the village is such an integral part of society what about those who come to Christ? Isaan Christians are told they must never drink-which is understandable since drinking often leads to drunkenness which Scripture clearly forbids. Yet how will Christians make and keep friends in a context where everyone feels they must drink to fit in?
Please pray protection of the Thais from the dangers of alcohol, pray that the Christians’ will be a good influence in this regard within the communities’ they live.