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Johnnie Walker Classic to remain in Thailand

Next year's Johnnie Walker Classic is to remain in Phuket following the postponement of an alcohol advertising ban by Thailand's post-coup government, organisers said on Tuesday.

Riche Monde, the Thai distributors of Johnnie Walker whisky, said the shelving of the ban meant there was no need to shift the $2.44 million tri-sanctioned tournament to either China or South Korea.

"When we knew the ban was postponed, we wanted it to stay in Thailand," Riche Monde president Vorathep Rangchaikul told Reuters.

"When we heard about the ban we were very scared about it, the organising committee was set to make a decision on another venue, but it wasn't necessary in the end."

As one of a series of measures aimed at winning public support following the Sept. 19 ouster of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand's military-backed government said it would ban alcohol advertising to curb underage drinking.

It also considered raising the minimum age for buying alcohol from 18 to 25.

The interim administration said the ban would commence on Dec. 3, but the date passed without any formal announcement of a change in the law.

Vorathep said Johnnie Walker intended to promote the tournament and not their brand, adding that a ban on alcohol advertising would only hurt Thailand.

He said the company wanted to promote Phuket as a high-end golf and spa destination to help rebuild the island's battered tourism industry following the 2004 tsunami.

"This tournament is good for the country," Vorathep said. "This will boost Phuket's tourism and help its recovery."

Adam Scott, Retief Goosen, Ernie Els and Paul Casey have confirmed they will contest the March 1-4 tournament, which will take place at the Blue Canyon Country Club.

American Kevin Stadler won this year's tournament in Perth, Australia.

December 19, 2006


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