Prayuth Chan-ocha is reportedly delighted by Thai street-food culture. But all stalls still have to clear out of Thonglor Road and other key areas by April.
Following the news that Bangkok was named one of CNN’s street-food capitals of the world, the BMA has dealt another big blow to our street-side food culture. As of Apr 17, 2017, all stalls have been ordered to cease working on Thonglor, Ekkamai and Pridi Banomyong (Phrakanong) Roads.
"Around the beginning of Feb, over 10 tessakit officers [city hall’s official sidewalk police] came to visit us with an announcement paper,” one street-food vendor* outside a pharmacy near the BTS end of Thonglor told us. “Without even giving me any chance to read, they made me hold it and snapped a photo. A week after that I received that announcement paper stuck on my cart."
A couple of shop-houses up from her, the loog chin ping (grilled pork balls and hot dogs) vendor* told us he was forced to move from under the BTS station around Jan. “The city hall officials came around two weeks after New Year and told me that I can't sell under the BTS station anymore," he said. "I don't know what I am going to do when Apr 17 comes. I will have nowhere to go,"
He also told us that food stalls on Ekkamai have been given the same notice.
At an a-la-carte stir-fry stand in front of the skin clinic just before 7-Eleven, one of the regular customers, a worker from Myanmar*, told us the removal of street-food from the area will have a big impact on him.
“There is not much cheap food around Thonglor," he said. "I won't know where to eat if this food stall really has to go next month.”
The cook at the stall* continued: “There is a large number of lower-class people around here. They cannot just try to turn Bangkok into a glamorous city like Paris or something. And it's not just Thonglor Road, it's everywhere including Ekkamai, Phrakanong and other areas around Sukhumvit.
Exactly where Thonglor and its surrounding street-food vendors will go after Apr 17 remains uncertain. "I honestly have no idea what I'll do," said the owner of a somtam stall opposite SCB Bank. "I won’t have the money to rent a shop-house, which will cost over 10,000/month, on top of the cost of staff and other bills."
City official arranged a meeting with vendors recently, but no solutions were offered. “They said they won't allow any stalls on the footpath both during the day and night times,” said the owner of the somtam stall. They said people have filed complaints about street-food stalls blocking the walkways.”
The only stalls which will be allowed to remain are those which do not take up sidewalk space. Another somtam vendor who operated from the front of the old-school pharmacy near the BTS was also at the meeting, and has been granted permission to stay. "They said as long as I can keep my stall under the shade of the shop-house and off the footpath I can continue to be here," he said.
He also mentioned that city hall officials had just been around the area before we came, checking up to ensure stalls were under the shade and not on the footpath.
Earlier this month, Ari food stalls were granted a permission to stay "until further notice" following news that they also had to clear off the street. So exactly what happens after Apr 17 remains uncertain.
*All sources in this story would like to remain anonymous.