Is the End of Bangkok Street Food Vending Near?

Street food vendors are an integral part of the Bangkok urban landscape, but city planners want to see them gone.

December 19, 2019, 11:00 AM PST

By Camille Fink


Thailand

SB7 / Shutterstock

Although street food vendors in Bangkok are an important part of urban life, city planners are taking aim at them, reports Hannah Beech. "To [city officials], this metropolis of 10 million residents suffers from an excess of crowds, clutter and health hazards. The floods, the heat, the stench of clogged canals and rotting fruit, the pok pok pok of that pestle — it’s all too much."

The number of areas designated for street food vending is down from almost 700 three years ago to 175 today, says Beech. Advocates say the vendors not only make city streets vibrant and lively spaces. They also provide access to inexpensive food for a large cross-section of city residents—from office workers to tourists to poor people living on the margins of society.

In addition, 80 percent of Thai street food vendors are women, many of whom are supporting their households, and any attempts to shut down operations would disproportionately affect them, notes Beech.

She profiles a number of these vendors, describing their backgrounds and what food vending means for their survival. While some Bangkok officials say there are not plans to clear the streets, street vendors say they are worried their time is limited and their futures are uncertain.

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