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Thaksin hits Thailand's legendary nightlife

It is just past midnight at The Morning Night Bar a few doors down from Bangkok's notorious Nana Entertainment Plaza and the party is in full swing. Loud rock music belts from speakers, clouds of cigarette smoke hug the pool tables and groups of inebriated western men clutch younger-looking Thai consorts as the Singha beer flows and the good times roll.

On one wall a plaque proudly announces the bar's first anniversary in August 2003. If prime minister Thaksin gets his way, it is possible that the Morning Night Bar might never get to celebrate its second.

Should such a tragedy occur, it might well be in good company. In mid-February, Thaksin's government announced the latest measure in its highly controversial law and order campaign. Outside certain designated entertainment zones, with effect from March 1 2004, all bars, nightclubs, discotheques, massage parlours, shops selling alcohol, cocktail and karaoke lounges and tea houses with female escorts will be forced by law to close at midnight.

Within the designated zones, about which there is growing debate and confusion, establishments may now only stay open until the already curtailed time of 2am.

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