BANGKOK: Authorities in Thailand’s capital are banishing its world-famous street-food vendors as part of a clean-up drive by the military government, outraging foodies and threatening the livelihoods of the road-side cooks.
Thailand’s street-food hawkers whip up tasty delights, from noodles and fried rice to oyster omelettes, in the blink of an eye, often with little more than a gas-cannister kitchen on a cart.
Bangkok is often voted the world’s best destination for street food in travel polls. Residents and visitors throng to the makeshift restaurants, often with plastic stools and tiny tables strung out on pavements in almost every neighbourhood. But that’s soon all going to change under an edict aimed at bringing order to the bustling city of some 12 million people.
“We would like the consumers, tourists or even the Thai patrons to be entitled to sanitary food, so far I don’t think we have achieved that,” Wallop Suwandee, chief adviser to Bangkok’s governor, told Reuters.
“We have to check the food preparation,” he said. “They shouldn’t clean and throw away dirty water into the drainage system.” He said food stalls would be moved off the pavements and some could be relocated to new sites.
The edict has left roadside dessert vendor Chaluay Thongku, 56, wondering how he can re-build a business. “I disagree with this because I’ll have to start all over again,” he said.
Food writer Korakot Punlopruksa said vendors were being unfairly treated. “This is disgraceful and not fair to people … This is how the city value people? This is how the authorities solve the problem? I don’t think so,” she wrote in a Facebook post. The clean-up is part of a wider effort by the military government, which came to power after a 2014 coup, to impose order. The junta has cracked down on various issues ranging from taxi gangs at airports to prostitution, which is illegal in Thailand, with mostly mixed results.