Bangkok to ban street food

A month after Bangkok was voted the world’s street food capital, the municipal government has announced that all food vendors will be removed by the end of the year.

The changes were part of a move to improve safety and cleanliness by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), which said the internationally renowned street-food hot spots of Yaowarat (Chinatown) and the backpacking centre, the Khao San Road, would go next.

Since seizing power in May 2014, the Thai junta has led a campaign to “clean up” and “return happiness” to the kingdom, focusing on issues such as late-night drinking, corruption and the sex trade. Street food, however, offers residents and visitors to Bangkok an affordable, varied 24-hour eating option that few other cities can match.

“The BMA is now working to get rid of the street vendors from all 50 districts of Bangkok and return the pavements to the pedestrians,” said Wanlop Suwandee, chief adviser to Bangkok’s governor. “The street vendors have seized the pavement space for too long and we already provide them with space to sell food and other products legally in the market.

“There will be no let-up in this operation. Every street vendor will have to move out,” The Nation quoted him saying.

CNN had just voted Bangkok’s street-food scene the best in the world for a second year running. It also runs contrary to a 2015 marketing campaign by the Tourism Authority of Thailand called “Pray for Anna”, centred around Thai street food.

Chawadee Nualkhair, a Bangkok-based street-food blogger, said earlier attempts to remove food stalls had failed.

“Street food was still too popular with the locals,” the blogger said. “Of course, it would make Bangkok less charming. But it also takes a big chunk of cheap options away from working Thais, and closes up an avenue of work for many. Where will shop employees, construction workers and taxi drivers eat?”

In 2016 the famous Soi Sukhumvit 38 food market, which had been going for nearly 40 years, was destroyed to make way for a luxury apartment block. Some vendors still squat in the area.

Siam, in the middle of town, has been cleared by the police.

Along the busy streets of Thong Lor and Ekkamai, notices have appeared warning vendors of the June 1 deadline to leave the area, which was brought forward to this week after the Songkran new year celebrations.

Most vendors had left Thong Lor this week.

Picture credit: Wikimedia