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Bangkok Street Markets Face Uncertainty

Street food vendor

New reports suggest that street food markets in Bangkok may be under threat from new legislation.

With reports wildly suggesting a total ban, a clear picture of the situation has not yet emerged.

Fake market news

News this week has been spread far and wide that the thriving street food markets of Bangkok are about to face a total blanket ban. A more measured look suggests that these reports are wildly exaggerated, amounting to nothing more than fake news.

streetfood vendor in bangkok

Reports began with a post by The Nation, suggesting that all of the street food vendors in Bangkok would be forced to stop trading by the end of 2017. The story has been covered widely, but the move itself may not actually be happening. Most insiders insist that the situation is more about tighter legislation than an out-and-out ban.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, according to The Network, has declared that Khao San Road and Yaowarat – backpacker favourites for street food – will be totally cleaned out of the popular stalls which traditionally line both sides of the streets. This is reportedly part of a wider mission to get rid of street vendors in the 50 districts that make up Bangkok, with these two areas just the next in a long line of clean-ups. This would lead to the loss of international food jobs and decimate a large tourist attraction.

The real story

Locals from Bangkok are suggesting that the BMA was grossly misquoted, and that a blanket ban just isn’t going to happen. After all, these are very popular tourist areas, and cleaning them out would most likely mean a drop in traffic to the region.

Instead of removing them all, the move is actually more about regulating when and where the stalls can be set up. Now, the man quoted about the new legislation is denying ever making those comments, and even added that there were currently no plans to make changes to the Khao San and Chinatown areas of Bangkok.

The new rules will see vendors restricted to operating only during certain times of the day. This will help to improve the traffic through the area at other times, so that it is not so congested as it currently is.

The Bangkok Post has something more of the real story. They suggest that new plans will improve the pavements and create a zoning system, something that is more about tidying up the city than actually clearing out the vendors. They will also be improving cleanliness in the area, which is essential for ensuring food hygiene levels for those buying street food. None of this seems prohibitive at all: rather, it is a move that will help improve the situation and even encourage more business.

The panic has most likely been caused by the fact that 431 other locations throughout Bangkok have seen the removal of street vendors. This, however, does not mean that they will be removed from the main tourist areas. In fact, it could even be speculated that the authorities would want to ensure that those areas were the only ones that survived, in order to funnel traffic through them and create more of an attraction for visitors.

Locals are not particularly worried: as they see it, very little will change. For example, the main idea is that serving will not be allowed until after 7pm. This is actually a rule in many parts of Bangkok already, so it does not come as a surprise at all. Local vendors are also quoted as suggesting that food stalls on private land, or moved about on wheels, will not be affected by the change.