By Katherine LaGrave. Photos: Getty.
In Bangkok, street food is king: For less than the cost of two New York City lattes, you can grab a snack-sized bowl (or three) of boat noodles from Boat Noodle Alley, order a steaming bowl of sour tom yum to cure your cold, crunch away on a som tam salad of grated green papaya and dried shrimp, or roll the dice with khao gaeng, a vendor's curry of the day, served over a plate of white rice. It's no surprise, then, that Bangkok has been named one of the world's top city's for street food. But the Thai capital's famous stalls may not be around for much longer.
According to The Telegraph, Bangkok city officials are attempting to ban any kind of stall from main roads by 2018, announcing that vendors will no longer be allowed to cook up their offerings for “order and hygiene reasons." Critics have mourned the crackdown, saying that the new rules will push vendors out of the city center, hinder Bangkok's poorest residents from eating downtown, and deter tourists, who will no longer be able to experience one of the city's biggest draws.
In the past year, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) officials have been clearing out food vendors in certain areas of the city, including the central district of Siam, Pratunam, and the flea market under Phra Phuttayotfa Bridge. (According to the BBC, by summer 2016, BMA officials had already evicted nearly 15,000 vendors from 39 public areas in the city.) On busy streets including Thong Lor and Ekkamai, there are notices warning vendors that their deadline to leave is June 1, according to The Guardian. Chinatown and Khao San Road, both street food hotspots, are next for cleanup, and the government's plan is to eventually get rid of street vendors from all of the city's 50 districts. Violators who continue to sell could be fined up to 2,000 baht (US$57), reports AFP—a steep price, considering most plates sell for between 30-50 baht ($.87-1.45).
Wanlop Suwandee, chief adviser to Bangkok’s governor, was quoted as saying that the government's aim is to "return the pavements to the pedestrians." Suwandee also told The Nation that there would be no compromises, saying, “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." The ban is part of a larger "clean up" effort on the part of Thailand's military junta, which has been in power since 2014.
This story originally appeared on Conde Nast Traveler.
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