18 april 2017
Bangkok to ban its famous street food stalls
Roadside bowls of spicy tom yum soup might be a thing of the past in Bangkok come 2018.
The world’s most famous city for street food is attempting to ban all food stalls by the end of the year.
In what some say is an effort to emulate the sterilised sheen of Singapore, city authorities have announced that vendors will no longer be allowed to cook up their wares for “order and hygiene reasons”.
The last few months have seen officials of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) rounding up food vendors and trying to contain them in certain areas of the city.
Now they have gone a step further and banned any kind of stall from the main roads.
Internationally renowned street food hotspots Chinatown and Khao San Road are next to be targeted for a clean-up.
“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,” Wanlop Suwandee, chief adviser to Bangkok’s governor, told The Nation newspaper.
“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.”
Eating at the makeshift shacks that line many a Bangkok street is one of south-east Asia’s culinary treats. Not only is the food cheap, it is authentic, and the experience can be a great way of mixing with Thai people. Stepping out for plate of noodles or fried insects has become a nightly ritual for metropolitan locals and is a great leveller in Bangkok society.
But officials suggest that the vendors’ stalls litter the streets and clog the foot paths, leaving little space for pedestrians.
“All types of stalls including clothes, counterfeit goods and food stalls will be banned from main city roads,” Wanlop Suwandee, a chief adviser to Bangkok’s governor, told AFP. “They will not be allowed for order and hygiene reasons,” he added.
The news has been met with shock from many who love the city.
“If you want to clean out all the vendors it’s like you are cleaning out our culture itself,” said Chiwan Suwannapak, who works for a Bangkok tour agency.
One of Bangkok’s most famous tourist streets – the Khaosan road – has traditionally teemed with hawkers and, along with the streams of scruffy backpackers, helped give the area a chaotic, ramshackle appeal.
“If they go against the vendors, that will that affect business and it will affect the charm of Khaosan,” said Sanga Ruangwattanaku, the president of a business association on Khaosan Road – a buzzing backpacker hotspot in Bangkok’s old town.
“Since the May 2014 military coup, Bangkok has been gradually changing from a chaotic, bustling happy-go-lucky south-east Asian capital with a hedonistic bent into an increasingly drab and orderly bargain basement version of Singapore," said Tom Vater, our Bangkok expert.
“Street food lies at the heart of this development. The more than 20,000 street food vendors who currently face eviction have long been one of the city's major attractions and Bangkok is regularly cited as one of the world's street food capitals.
“Nonetheless, cleanliness issues, control and security concerns are the ruling military junta's priority and so all street food must go. The vendors have not been offered adequate alternatives and the hundreds of thousands of poor who make the city run – from cleaners to taxi drivers – will no longer be able to afford to eat in downtown Bangkok.
There are thought to be around 20,000 street vendors operating in Bangkok - credit: alamy