Thai shocker: Bangkok just banned its street food

Bangkok to ban street food stalls in clean-up crusade

The race to erase street food continues: Yaowarat and Khaosan are up next

The last few months have seen officials of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) rounding up food vendors and trying to contain them in certain areas of the city.

The CNN report said that "it is impossible to avoid street food in Bangkok, where sidewalk vendors in different parts of the city operate on a fixed rotation". However, the Thai capital has just outlawed street food vendors and stalls as part of a "clean-up effort" meant to target air pollutants, as well as sanitation and food safety concerns.

Leah Cohen, chef-owner of Pig & Khao restaurant in New York City, spent a year staging at restaurants across Southeast Asia, eventually settling down in Bangkok.

A man making food at a street stall in the Phrakanong district of Bangkok.

"There are more than 200 street food vendors in Khao San Road and they are the uniqueness of our district that attracts many tourists from around the world", Piyabutr said. With the strike, BMA also wants to reclaim the pavements for pedestrians. Vendors, it said, would be barred entirely from the streets by the end of the year.

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The ferocity of City Hall's intent has met with opposition and dismay.

In fact the food stalls haven't been completely removed from the pavements. She added: "I'm hearing people say today that vendors will be allowed to sell on footpaths at Yaowarat and other places after 7pm".

Now they have gone a step further and banned any kind of stall from the main roads. But she is anxious for some of her friends who are vendors should there really be a blanket ban on the practice. "And a lot of the same food can be found in covered markets and floating markets around the city". These areas could continue being shared between pedestrians and street hawkers.

Bangkok's Chinatown (a.k.a. Yaowarat) and Khao San Road, which have always been favourite food destinations for locals and tourists alike, are among the next areas to be cleared. It would maintain the city's status as a world street-food capital and a tourist draw.

The authorities should certainly take measures to ensure that street food is safe for consumers.

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