• A food vendor moves through tourist traffic on Khao San Road in Bangkok. (David Longstreath / AP.)
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration says "street vendors have seized the pavement space for too long", and all street vendors across Bangkok's 50 districts will have to leave their long-held spots. Locals are not happy.
Chloe Sargeant

19 Apr 2017 - 12:52 PM  UPDATED 19 Apr 2017 - 5:04 PM

Bangkok, Thailand's capital city, buzzing cultural hub and internationally recognised home of some of the world's finest street food, has announced that all street food vendors will swiftly be removed in an effort to 'clean up' the city.

Famous street food locations such as Chinatown, Yaowarat and Khao San Road will soon be cleared of stalls in the interest of "order and hygiene", says the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA). 

Chief advisor to Bangkok’s governor Wanlop Suwandee said officials are “now working to get rid of stalls from all 50 districts of Bangkok”, so city hall can work to return the pavement to pedestrians.

“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, so there will be no let-up in this operation. Every street vendor will have to move out," he said. "No exceptions."

In 2017, CNN named Bangkok as the city with the world's best street food for the second year in a row. 

Thailand's junta has run an extensive campaign to "clean up" cities and "return happiness" to the country since taking power in 2014, but previous attempts to remove food stalls have failed.

David Thompson, author of Thai Street Food  and the man behind both the award-winning nahm restaurant in Bangkok and Long Chim in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney, says it would be a terrible blow. 

"It's loved by the rich and tourists, but street food is essential for the poorer part of Thailand - people who are paid a subsistance wage can't afford food in restaurants and marketplaces. And it's not only food for the poorly paid, but employment and income for others. 

"It will, I believe, cause unrest and disquiet. One thing I've learnt is you never get between a Thai and their food."

In trying to create order in a "wonderfully chaotic city", the government was doing itself a disservice, he tells SBS. "I'm astounded that they are trying to reform a society of inveterate snackers."

"Trying to break the habit of generations is almost impossible. I suspect that if there is a pushback - and I hope there will be - then they may decide to open the streets again."

Bangkok-based food blogger Chawadee Nualkhair told The Guardian, "Street food was still too popular with the locals. Of course, it would make Bangkok less charming. But it also takes a big chunk of cheap options away from working Thais, and closes up an avenue of work for many. Where will shop employees, construction workers and taxi drivers eat?"

The BMA says that the central disctrict of Siam has already been completely eradicated of street food vendors, and streets in Thong Lor and Ekkamai received notice that they must leave their long-held positions by June 1. This deadline was then brought forward to April 16th, 2017, so all street vendors in the area have disappeared within the past few days. Signs are now posted in the area stating that permits to trade have been revoked by city hall. 

Regarding the general ban throughout Bangkok's 50 districts, reactions on social media have been nothing less than devastated:

While there is no definitive dates for the proposed removal of vendors, the BMA has stated that all street food will be gone by the end of the year.

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