Thai government backpedals in anti-street food crusade

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Amid a wave of criticism and protests from consumers and vendors alike over the Thai government’s planned cleanup of Bangkok’s street food stalls, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) in a hastily organised press conference on April 20 said reports on an outright street food ban were “false.”

Wanlop Suwandee, chief adviser to the Bangkok governor, acknowledged that street food was “integral to the soul of the city” and explained that there wouldn’t be a ban on street food vendors in Bangkok as reported by media and they would still be allowed in small alleys and designated areas. However, they now would have to be “properly managed to prevent negative impacts on other people.”

“Street food and street vendors are still allowed in zoned areas, as we are trying to make the areas tidy and clean, but sellers must comply with the law,” Wanlop said, adding that this also applied to popular street food destinations such as Khao San Road and Chinatown which were reportedly next to be cleaned up.

As expected, the Tourism Authority of Thailand quickly barged into the discussion, repeating the notion that media reports on a street food ban in Bangkok were “misleading.” Rather, vendors would be allowed to keep selling food from street kitchens as long as they adhered to “stricter safety and hygiene requirements.”

Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Thailand’s minister of tourism and sports, said that Bangkok was “striving for the sustainability of this significant tourist attraction.”

She noted that “all relating departments” are now discussing feasible solutions with the Metropolitan Police Bureau and its traffic division to ease congestion caused by street vendors selling food from the sidewalks. She also gave a list of measures which are currently under consideration, including the strict observance of hygiene standards by vendors, food stalls with a uniform design that has a “local identity,” mandatory training programmes for all personnel dealing with street food, a mandatory test which vendors must pass, and special attention paid to dish cleaning and waste management.

However, critics keep saying that sweeps already took place to remove street food vendors from popular downtown areas such as Siam Square, Pratunam, Tha Prachan, Silom, Ekkamai, Thong Lor and Phra Khanong, and no new food zones have been set up so far. Rather, they allege that some of the vendors had to make way for new condominium projects.

Paradoxically, the Thai official news agency announced on April 20 that the Tourism Authority of Thailand together with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration will hold a “Bangkok Street Food Festival 2017” in June after the Thai capital has been named by CNN as one of the “top street food cities in the world.”

The event will present street food along major tourist streets in Bangkok, namely along the Yaowarat, Khao San and Pratunam areas, exactly those which before were in the focus of being cleaned from street food up by authorities, which is why the announcement left many people highly confused.

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Amid a wave of criticism and protests from consumers and vendors alike over the Thai government's planned cleanup of Bangkok's street food stalls, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) in a hastily organised press conference on April 20 said reports on an outright street food ban were "false." Wanlop Suwandee, chief adviser to the Bangkok governor, acknowledged that street food was "integral to the soul of the city" and explained that there wouldn't be a ban on street food vendors in Bangkok as reported by media and they would still be allowed in small alleys and designated areas. However, they now...

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Amid a wave of criticism and protests from consumers and vendors alike over the Thai government’s planned cleanup of Bangkok’s street food stalls, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) in a hastily organised press conference on April 20 said reports on an outright street food ban were “false.”

Wanlop Suwandee, chief adviser to the Bangkok governor, acknowledged that street food was “integral to the soul of the city” and explained that there wouldn’t be a ban on street food vendors in Bangkok as reported by media and they would still be allowed in small alleys and designated areas. However, they now would have to be “properly managed to prevent negative impacts on other people.”

“Street food and street vendors are still allowed in zoned areas, as we are trying to make the areas tidy and clean, but sellers must comply with the law,” Wanlop said, adding that this also applied to popular street food destinations such as Khao San Road and Chinatown which were reportedly next to be cleaned up.

As expected, the Tourism Authority of Thailand quickly barged into the discussion, repeating the notion that media reports on a street food ban in Bangkok were “misleading.” Rather, vendors would be allowed to keep selling food from street kitchens as long as they adhered to “stricter safety and hygiene requirements.”

Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Thailand’s minister of tourism and sports, said that Bangkok was “striving for the sustainability of this significant tourist attraction.”

She noted that “all relating departments” are now discussing feasible solutions with the Metropolitan Police Bureau and its traffic division to ease congestion caused by street vendors selling food from the sidewalks. She also gave a list of measures which are currently under consideration, including the strict observance of hygiene standards by vendors, food stalls with a uniform design that has a “local identity,” mandatory training programmes for all personnel dealing with street food, a mandatory test which vendors must pass, and special attention paid to dish cleaning and waste management.

However, critics keep saying that sweeps already took place to remove street food vendors from popular downtown areas such as Siam Square, Pratunam, Tha Prachan, Silom, Ekkamai, Thong Lor and Phra Khanong, and no new food zones have been set up so far. Rather, they allege that some of the vendors had to make way for new condominium projects.

Paradoxically, the Thai official news agency announced on April 20 that the Tourism Authority of Thailand together with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration will hold a “Bangkok Street Food Festival 2017” in June after the Thai capital has been named by CNN as one of the “top street food cities in the world.”

The event will present street food along major tourist streets in Bangkok, namely along the Yaowarat, Khao San and Pratunam areas, exactly those which before were in the focus of being cleaned from street food up by authorities, which is why the announcement left many people highly confused.

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