Eleven of the political parties preparing to contest the upcoming 7th parliamenrary election have pledged to voters that they will expedite the establishment of an alcohol control law and increase tariffs on these commodities to curb the risks caused by alcohol.

This commitment was made through a joint letter of commitment made possible by the People’s Centre for Development and Peace (PDP) on May 18.

Signatories included the Khmer National United Party; Grassroots Democratic Party; Khmer Conservative Party; Women’s Party for Women; Dharmacracy Party; Khmer Anti-Poverty Party; Cambodia Indigenous People’s Democracy Party; Cambodian Youth Party; People Purpose Party; Cambodian Nation Party, and Khmer United Great Nation Party.

PDP president Yang Kim Eng explained that the signing ceremony was aimed at demonstrating to voters that the parties who signed the letter are committed to increasing taxes on beer and other alcohol and intend to accelerate the adoption of laws that will regulate their sale.

“Representatives of the participating political parties agree that increased taxes on alcohol are not a purely economic tool, but a public health necessity,” he said.

“The undersigned political parties solemnly promise that when we are elected, we will push to increase the special tax on beer and alcohol by at least 10 per cent more than the current rate,” said a joint letter.

They also pledged to expedite the adoption of the Law on the Control of Alcohol Products, drafted and approved by the Inter-Ministerial Commission in July 2015, to promote public health and prevent and mitigate the effects caused by alcohol consumption.

The letter explained that while the current alcohol tax is 30 per cent for beer and 35 per cent for liquor, the rates are still low compared to Thailand, where beer and spirits are taxed at up to 60 per cent.

“Raising taxes is an effective measure to reduce the dangers of alcohol use and is a win-win policy as it increases the state’s income and promotes public health,” said the letter.

Sok Eysan, spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), explained why the ruling party did not sign the letter.

“Civil society organisations are free to express their opinions, and we agree that anything that prevents alcohol consumption is a good idea, but it is ultimately up to the authorities to consider it,” he said.

He added that the CPP has taken the people’s needs into account through its safe village-commune policy.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), alcohol can cause more than 200 diseases, including liver disease, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, resulting in a devastating effect on public health. Alcohol causes an estimated three million deaths worldwide each year, or 5.3 per cent of all deaths in the world.

“Alcohol is partially responsible for 13.5 per cent of deaths among people aged 20-39,” it added.