Bangkok’s street food in danger

The cuisine found on the streets of Bangkok, and Thailand more generally, is sure to be one of the most memorable aspects of any trip there. Recognized all over the globe, we are astounded by the quality, quantity, and pricing we find there. It is not surprising that CNN placed this city at the top of their list for the greatest street food in the world for the second year in a row. However, sadly for us, that could alter in the future.

All of this is occurring as a direct result of an article that appeared in The Nation one month ago and said that the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) planned to outlaw all forms of street food inside the city by the end of this year. According to the main advisor to the government, Wanlop Suwandee, who is quoted in the paper, the government has received hundreds of complaints, which is the reason why they want to make Bangkok’s sidewalks accessible to pedestrians again. According to him, the decision was made to bring the city closer to achieving more order, security, and cleanliness. Even on the streets with the most tourists, there would be no exceptions made.

Bangkok's street food in danger

Nevertheless, Wanlop offered a second interview just a few days after the book was published, in which he said that the situation was not precisely as described. According to him, the ban on street sellers would not be implemented in popular tourist destinations, such as Khao San Road or Yaowarat. There, at that location, new and more stringent restrictions will be enforced, some of which include opening hours, personnel training, and higher levels of cleanliness, among others. Nevertheless, the booths would be cleared out in every other place, including the vicinity of Siam Square and the Victoria Monument, amongst others.

The purportedly stated did not come to a finish at that point. On the same day that this new interview was conducted, the Minister of Tourism and Sports of the nation, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, stated on his Facebook account that there would be no ban, but that all merchants, not only those from Khao San or Yaowarat, would be regularized and would follow a number of guidelines.

What the future holds for the city’s many forms of street cuisine is still unknown. It would seem that some of the booths have already been taken down, and in certain locations, the merchants have been given notice to vacate the premises by June 1st. For the time being, it would seem that Khao San and Yaowarat are not in danger, but, the situation, even in these areas, could radically alter depending on the new laws that are implemented.

Bangkok's street food in danger

It is not the first time that the government in Bangkok has attempted to restrict or outright prohibit street sellers. We are keeping our fingers crossed that this effort will also be unsuccessful, like all the others that came before it. The prohibition of food sold on the street there has repercussions for many facets of society, including: the city’s tourist industry, which suffers since the city’s reputation is built in large part on its culinary scene; low-income employees, who depend on street food as one of their primary sources of nutrition because it is both healthy and affordable; and ultimately, the loss of hundreds of jobs as a direct result of the ban.

Liam Lee

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