Thailand Gastronomy: City Government Back Down over Street Food

The announcement of Bangkok City Hall administration to ban entirely street food from the street of Bangkok is generating outcry not only in Thailand circles but across the world. The decision to clean out all the streets of Bangkok not only would deprive Thailand capital city from a very valuable asset for tourism but also from an income for local communities.

Many people point out that street food is an important economic factor for unprivileged people- often upcountry farmers who move to Bangkok in search of a work- and an important social element as it generally helps mixing all Thai social classes.

The announcement to get rid of street food hawkers happened as Bangkok was just named the World capital city for street food  by CNN International! The fact to remove in particular the stalls along Khao San Road and Yaowarat in Chinatown- two extremely popular places for tourists- forced the city administration to back down while both TAT and the Ministry of Tourism had to step in to defuse the explosive news.

” There is no plan to eliminate street food sellers. We even will organise a Bangkok Street Food Festival in June to support them”, explained a few days ago the Tourism Authority Governor Yuthasak Supasorn.

“We have no intention to get rid of street food vendors. We just want to make them more compatible with health and hygiene standards that international and local guests want these days”, confirmed during Michelin Guide Bangkok launching Thailand Minister of Tourism, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul.

However, not everyone agrees on the evolution. In an opinion tribune published this Tuesday in the Bangkok Post, former Secretary General to ex PM Yingluck Shinawatra, Suranand Vejjajiva explained that ” the street food ban will have a harsh impact, not only on vendors, but also on their patrons. While the government is making a U-turn on the ban, it appears only those in thriving tourist areas will be spared. But it’s not right to satisfy tourists and ignore our own people”.

“This is because the change in the Bangkok landscape which sees shopping malls, high-rise offices and residential condominiums taking precedence has forced those with lower incomes out to the fringes of the city. Spatial development such as the Klong Toey area will mean a number of the poor will be pushed further away from their workplaces. In this scenario, it’s the major conglomerates that operate the malls and the convenience stores which emerge as the winners”, he explained.

“And the government is not offering alternatives. Take a look at our neighbours. Singapore, for example, made a conscious decision to set up hawker markets. The Thai government which owns plots of land throughout the city has not given this a thought at all”.

Many Bangkok streets have already been cleaned from street vendors in past months from Sukhumvit Soi 37- very famous for its street food- to the latest victim, the Thong Lor area. More areas are likely to be -discreetly- cleaned out of their food sellers while Yaowarat and Khao San Road might be branded as “street food flagships”. Public opinion should then be on alert and be the guardians of a true Bangkok way of life…