Bangkok Street Food Crackdown Deadline Arrives
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s (BMA) war on street food – the best in the world from where we and plenty of others stand – gets real today as the deadline for vendors in the city’s Thong Lor, Ekkamai and Phra Khanong districts to shutter their street-side outlets has come. Street Food vendors will disappear from Bangkok by the end of the year in the interests of cleanliness, safety and order, the BMA has stated.
Only a month after the city was named the finest street food destination in the world by CNN for the second year, the BMA continued its operation to reclaim the pavements for pedestrians and announced that vendors would be banned entirely from the capital’s streets.
The CNN report said that “it is impossible to avoid street food in Bangkok, where sidewalk vendors in different parts of the city operate on a fixed rotation. It said that some take care of the breakfast crowd with sweet soy milk and bean curd, others dish up fragrant rice and poached chicken for lunch. The late-night crowd offers everything from phad thai noodles to grilled satay”.
A meeting between vendors and city officials last month failed to produce a workable compromise so Thong Lor is to be the first area targeted before the crackdown spreads to neighbouring streets.
Boontham Huiprasert, a Bangkok district chief carrying out the mandate in his jurisdiction, expressed the government’s hardline point of view ahead of the crackdown. “Just don’t sell on the sidewalks,” he told the AP on Friday. “People who sell stuff on the sidewalks, they don’t pay rent. There are so many out there now, so we have to organise society.”
Of course, the sidewalks are precisely where street food is sold. A fact that makes it not only affordable but part of the fabric of daily life in Bangkok.
Gaggan Anand, head chef at the top-rated restaurant in Asia three years running, might have put it best in a recent interview with the Bangkok Post: “Our street food rocks. Can you beat khao man gai Pratunam (the famous Hainanese chicken rice in Pratunam) or a beer on a soi with mosquito bites? That’s the experience you cannot change. This is Bangkok and it should not change.”
Wanlop Suwandee, chief adviser to Bangkok’s governor, said yesterday that the internationally recognised areas of Yaowarat and Khao San Road would be the next target after they successfully cleared the pavements of food vendors in areas such as Siam Square, Pratunam, and the flea market under Phra Phuttayotfa Bridge.
“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. Yaowarat and Khao San Road will be our next goal in clearing out illegal vendors - no exceptions” Wanlop said.
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