UPDATE: 4/21, 9:44 a.m.: This post has been updated to reflect that street food has been banned from several of the city’s major roadways and tourist areas, but not all streets.
UPDATE: 4/21, 4:15pm: The Tourism Authority of Thailand has released a statement to assure tourists that Bangkok “remains a top destination for street food.” Although the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority has put measures in place to improve hygiene and pedestrian traffic flow, including clearing “vital walkways” of cars, chairs, and umbrellas, existing street food vendors will be allowed to continue doing business. The BMA will require vendors in busy areas that obstruct vital walkways to move to designated zones and markets nearby.
The popular street food destinations Yaowarat and Khao San Road will not be affected, they say, contradicting an earlier statement by an adviser to Bangkok’s governor (who later told CNN he had been misquoted). Those vendors will be required to comply with the hygiene standards the BMP plans to enforce following government approval.
Authorities in Bangkok, Thailand are clearing the sidewalks of the city’s world-famous street food. According to the Guardian, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), Bangkok’s local governing body, has banned street food stalls from the city’s major thoroughfares. In an announcement, the BMA has ordered street food vendors to shut down by the end of the year in a move to prioritize “order and hygiene.”
For many vendors, the ban has come sooner. According to the Nation police have already cleared street vendors from the central district of Siam, and street-food mainstays Yaowarat in Chinatown and Khao San Road are said to be next in the BMA’s efforts to “return the pavements to pedestrians,” Wanlop Suwandee, chief adviser to Bangkok’s governor, told the Nation.
In Bangkok, street food has long been a critical part of the city’s DNA. More than 20,000 vendors, according to the Telegraph, set up throughout the city’s 50 districts to serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late-night snacks to locals and tourists. Just this month, CNN’s annual ranking named Bangkok the city with the best street food for the second year running. And Time notes that the Tourism Authority of Thailand uses the allure of the city’s street food to promote the country, most notably in a 2015 campaign called “Pray for Anna.” Bangkok has become the world’s most visited city precisely because of its street food.
According to the Guardian, there has been some confusion over whether the new ban will mean a definitive end to street food culture: One district chief said vendors with pushcarts and those who set up away from the sidewalk may be allowed to stay. The Nation also reports that president of the Khao San Business Council, Piyabutr Jiuramonaikul, was unaware of the BMA’s plans to manage the street vendors in Khao San Road, where there more than 200 vendors set up shop, and said there would need to be further discussions with the authorities.
However, as the BMA clears the sidewalks, there’s no doubt that the vendors who depend on street food for their livelihoods — and the many Bangkok residents who rely on them for an affordable meal — have been left in the lurch.
• The best street food on the planet, but Bangkok bans its roadside stalls [Guardian]
• The World's Street-Food Capital Is Banning Street Food [Time]
• BMA bans all street food across Bangkok this year [The Nation]