From a date that has yet to be announced on, the public sale of alcohol in Kyrgyzstan is set to be banned from 10 p.m. till 9 in the morning. The measure only concerns shops and not bars, restaurants and clubs – no doubt much to the latter’s relief. The measure was announced by the Bishkek Municipality following recommendations by police. For the moment, the measure only concerns Bishkek and its agglomeration but if successful, Parliament may well adopt it in the form of national legislation. The overall aim is to combat alcoholism, especially among young middle-class people, whose drinking parties often result in violence.
“The Bishkek Mayor’s Office intends to restrict sale of alcohol and energy drinks,” the local news agency 24.kg in a report dated June 26 quoted the Deputy Chief of the Main Department of Internal Affairs Almazbek Orozaliev as telling a public roundtable on the issue. “If in 2010 at least 3,895 protocols for drinking alcohol in public places were made up, in 2013 [their number increased to] 16, 930,” the official was quoted as saying. Exceptions will be made for special occasions such as the celebration of New Year, Novruz Bayram and the end of the academic year in late May and the school year in late June. Observers note that on such occasions eruptions of street fighting as a result of excessive drinking are extremely rare. Most violence occurs at home or on the street when party-goers leave the bar or the restaurant where they have been celebrating.
As usual, figures tend to tell much of the story. “368 domestic violence cases were registered in Bishkek for 5 months of 2014, Bishkek city police vice chief Almaz Orozaliyev said at the meeting in Bishkek mayor’s office,” as AKIpress reported. “In 132 cases victims suffered from those under influence of alcohol. 361 victims are women, 7 are men,” the report noted. “The Bishkek police vice chief noted a rise in crimes in the capital city. He said alcoholic beverages are freely sold to minors, which causes lots of problems.”
However, opinions tend to be divided as for the actual effects of the measure. On one hand, the public might feel safer on the streets at night, but whether that feeling will be supported by realities remains to be questioned. “Only for 4 months in 2014, 58 criminal offenses committed while intoxicated were registered in Bishkek. Consumption of alcohol in Bishkek reaches up to 16 liters per capita per year, which exceeds the level of 2010 by four times,” a separate report by 24.kg published in late May on the issue reads “However, Interior Minister Abdylda Suranchiev does not believe that restrictions on sale of alcohol will give tangible results. A similar ban exists in many CIS countries and Europe. Authorities say that the ban has beneficial effects on the public consciousness, but in fact, the ban is valid only formally. Consumers are also divided into two groups: those supporting the restriction, noting that it is not so dangerous in the streets, and those fighting for their right to choose to sip after a hard day.”
Apart from alcohol, pep drinks are also included in the measure. The alcohol products analysis expert of the Department of Alcohol Disease Prevention of the Oversight Committee for Sanitation and Epidemiology Kanybek Kachkynbayev was quoted as saying at the event mentioned above that “there is evidence that children consume energy drinks from the second grade.” “Therefore, we must sell them as drugs in pharmacies,” the official added. However, this, as has been warned, might bring Kyrgyzstan in conflict with the World Trade Organisation, regulations of which allow constraints on alcohol sales but not on so-called energy drinks.
BY CHARLES VAN DER LEEUW, WRITER, NEWS ANALYST