One of the biggest news on social media this week was about a front page headline in The Nation newspaper on Tuesday. It stated “BMA bans all street food across Bangkok this year”. We knew this was coming as they have been reclaiming pavement space around Bangkok over the last year. Not just from the food vendors, but from other sellers as well. But, what we weren’t expecting was a blanket ban like this headline suggested. I was always under the impression that it would become more regulated. That the vendors who were operating illegally and blocking the path would be moved elsewhere. But the food vendors in front of commercial buildings or on private land, would remain. Now the government official mentioned in the article has come out to say that he was misquoted by the media. He said places like Chinatown and Khao San Road will continue to have street food. It would only be more hygienic and regulated.
Unfortunately, the news about the ban on street food in Bangkok has already gone around the world. The government is now in damage control. Will something good come out of this? Will we have a compromise where the street food can stay but it is cleaner and the food stalls do not obstruct pedestrians or traffic? As a hint of what the future might hold, H.E. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, the Minister of Tourism and Sports posted the following message on my Facebook page:
“The City of Bangkok has been very privileged to be named “The World Best City of Street Food. Under the guidance of the Prime Minister, the City of Bangkok is striving for the sustainability of this significant tourist attraction. The Governor of Bangkok has instructed all relating departments to cooperatively seek with other governmental agencies, the Metropolitan Police Bureau and its Traffic Division the best and most feasible solutions. In particular the Yaowaraj Road and Khao San Road which have been the places of frequent visits by most tourists as well as Thai patrons. “
The Minister went on to say….
The following measures are being considered for the implementation upon approvals of the Governor and also the Government:
1. The universal hygienic standards must strictly be observed by vendors during food preparation and services.
2. Food stalls should present local identity and be of uniformity.
3. Present food vendors will be allowed to continue their business as usual with regards to all those conditions aiming for sustainability.
4. All personnel dealing with the street food preparation and services will be required to attend the training programs to be organized by the City. Moreover, they must pass the test before being allowed to operate their food stalls.
5. Particular attentions will be paid to their procedures of dish cleaning and waste management, i.e., the dish cleaning on pavement would be definitely prohibited.
The Tourism Minister concluded by saying, “All of these measures will be applied to food street vendors in other areas as well. In short, street food vendors will not banned as circulated among some media. On the contrary, they will be supported and facilitated adhering to the features of tourist attractions as well as universal hygienic standards.”