PHOTO: Bangkok street food may just kick around a little longer. (Photo via Flickr/J Aaron Farr)
Connoisseurs of Bangkok’s famed street food have had quite the dizzying few days.
Reports, such as from The Guardian, had all but closed the door on the iconic city's eclectic and vibrant street food scene, with one official proclaiming the government would crack down on the practice.
As this continues to be a lifeblood for locals and a reason to visit for tourists, people were understandably upset.
The good news is that we are now learning Thailand’s capital will keep its bustling culinary scene in some form. The bad news is there is some conjecture as to what form that will take over the next few months.
The problem started when Wanlop Suwandee, chief adviser to Bangkok’s governor, was quoted by The Nation as stating the government was, “now working to get rid of stalls from all 50 districts of Bangkok.” According to the report, Suwandee continued: “There will be no let-up in this operation. Every street vendor will have to move out.”
Clearly, there was very little wiggle room with such a clear and concise edict.
Whether from immense uproar or simple miscommunication, Bangkok officials are now moonwalking the veritable food cart back onto the street.
There has been news that the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) would combine efforts for a street food festival in June.
Lonely Planet states that the initial proclamation was reversed in a social media post: “Tourist-heavy areas of Khao San Road and Yaowarat were next on the list to be cleared of street food stalls but in an announcement on Facebook, Thailand’s Minister for Tourism, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, effectively reversed the decision.”
Wanlop Suwandee, the initial fire starter, is quoted as saying, “Street food and street vendors are still allowed in the zoned areas, as we are trying to make the areas tidy and clean, but sellers must comply with the law.”
CNN's nuanced dive looks at both sides of the controversy: First, there are those locals who subsist on inexpensive food during work hours and tourists who crave the experience.
But the love isn’t universal. As the report finds, many are frustrated with the limited sidewalk space and the pedestrian congestion that takes place all around the city because of ubiquitous stalls.
Suwandee explained to CNN: “The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration is not banning street food in Khao San and Yaowarat roads, it's the opposite. It is supporting street food by implementing hygienic measures and organizing traffic around the areas.”
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This is good news in the sense that it seems the government is now embracing its street food culture while aiming to shore up some of its negative aspects such as overcrowding and sanitation. However, Siam Discovery, Siam Center and Silom have all seen their vendors prohibited, via CNN.
The problem is the city has long been an epicenter of street food vendors. It may be too late for a drastic measure as seen in the global pandemonium that took place at the mere suggestion these vendors would be banned.
A more pragmatic approach is necessary for a city that certainly needs more structure and organization for its remarkable food scene.