Taopiphop Limjittrakorn: The home brewer turned MP shaking up Thailand’s liquor industry
A young man’s passion for craft beer has taken him to heights most Thais can only dream of – a seat in Parliament where he is now fighting to break the virtual monopoly in Thailand’s alcohol market.
“I am making good on my election promise,” said Taopiphop Limjittrakorn, who was arrested for brewing craft beer without a license in early 2017, before being elected under the Future Forward Party’s banner two years later.
In the run-up to the general election, he bicycled door to door through Bangkok’s Constituency 22 to inform voters about his plan to change laws that favor giant brewers and make craft beer easily available.
Today, Taopiphop is convinced his push for the new excise tax law, widely dubbed the “Progressive Liquor Bill”, will not only give Thais more choices at lower prices but also boost the grassroots economy.
The 33-year-old’s policy will be especially welcomed by drinkers now, as liquor/beer prices look set to rise again in March. A can of beer is expected to become several baht more expensive next month.
Meanwhile, his Progressive Liquor Bill is currently being reviewed by the Cabinet.
Craft beer-inspired political career
Born on February 20, 1989, Taopiphop fell in love with the taste of craft beer as a young man. Then, a trip to New York inspired him to try his hand at making the stuff.
But just as he was about to open his microbrewery at his shophouse home in 2017, police turned up and arrested him. He was eventually convicted of breaking the liquor law, fined Bt5,500, and slapped with a suspended jail term.
The arrest was a huge setback, but Taopiphob didn’t take it lying down. Scrutinizing the law, he discovered that certain requirements effectively perpetuated an oligopoly in which a few giant corporate brewers dominated the market.
“Ever since, I have been determined to change the law, Taopiphop recounted. “Initially, I intended to set up my own political party to advance the cause.”
Destiny had another plan for him, though. One day, he received an invitation to a seminar. It turned out to be the birthplace of the Future Forward Party and Taopiphop became one of the party’s 26 co-founders.
He stood by Future Forward after it was dissolved in 2020, clambering aboard its successor, Move Forward Party.
Thailand’s ‘progressive’ liquor bill stalled as vetting by cabinet required
While it is normal for an MP to receive a royal decoration, Taopiphop was widely criticized for accepting his, since Move Forward enjoys strong support among the pro-democracy movement – which is pushing for monarchy reform.
Some of his supporters said they felt let down after he reportedly requested and received the Knight Commander (Second Class) of the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand.
“I am just complying with customs,” Taopiphop argued. “My ideologies are unchanged. I am still the same guy.”
Just regular (eccentric) guy
Taopiphop graduated from Thammasat University’s Faculty of Law and worked as a freelance tour guide to make money. Standing an impressive 194 centimeters tall, Taopiphop once said “eccentricity”, “remarkable height” and “a firm stance against injustice” were his most prominent traits.
He said he enjoyed doing new things and hoped people would recognize him as a new-breed politician. Apart from advocating the liberation of the beer market, he has also expressed support for e-cigarettes.
Unlike many of his peers in Parliament, Taopiphop is not a rich man. His asset declaration in 2019 showed he owned a Bt2.6-million house, a Bt25,000 motorcycle, and savings of just Bt148,956.
This politician recently married the love of his life, whom he endearingly refers to as Nong Nam. The wedding ceremony took place on January 22 this year.
Announcing the news of his marriage, Taopiphop said: “I shall be loyal to people the way I am loyal to my wife. I shall stand by the people, through ups and downs, the way I stand by my wife.”
By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk