Today marked a tragic day for Thai food and its eager consumers: the day that Bangkok street stalls died.
Thailand’s vital, bustling capital is the most visited city in the entire world–and one of its main attractions was its legendary roadside food markets, a sizzling, spicy-sweet oasis where locals and tourists alike could savor the most mouth-watering Thai dishes on the tightest of budgets.
But no more. According to the Guardian, the Bangkok government has issued an edict ordering the thousands of street food vendors in all 50 districts of the city to shutter their doors and clear out. The drastic move is reportedly motivated by a desire to restore “order and hygiene” to city–to “return the pavement to pedestrians”–but the decision has been met overwhelmingly by outrage from many Bangkok citizens.
“There will be no let-up in this operation. Every street vendor will have to move out,” said Wanlop Suwandee, chief advisor to city’s governor. This isn’t the first attempt by the government to shut down the stalls; ever since taking power in 2014, Thailand’s military junta “has led a campaign to ‘clean up’ and ‘return happiness’ to the country, focusing on issues such as late night drinking, corruption and the sex trade,” writes the Guardian.
But the public has been resisting their attempts to crack down on the street markets, which are a huge boon for the economy and the tastebuds–Bangkok’s famous as an affordable foodie destination, having twice been named by CNN the home of the “best street food on the planet,” and tourism makes up 15% of the local economy.
“Street food was still too popular with the locals,” a local food blogger told The Guardian. “Of course, it would make Bangkok less charming. But it also takes a big chunk of cheap options away from working Thais, and closes up an avenue of work for many. Where will shop employees, construction workers and taxi drivers eat?”
Many of the area’s most popular restaurants have already been shut down in the last couple of years, bought up by real estate developers. Now, the most crowded food stall streets are rapidly emptying out.
Reportedly, push-cart vendors with moveable storefronts are permitted to keep selling as long as they stay out of the sidewalks; all the standing stalls, with their plastic-chair dining patios, must go.
Via The Guardian