UPDATE: Bangkok’s street food ban, which was announced earlier this week, has been effectively reversed, reports Lonely Planet. Following public outcry on social media, Thailand’s Minister for Tourism, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, announced on Facebook that the ban has been lifted, and confirmed at a press conference that vendors would still be allowed to operate in streets and small alleys under the condition they do not interfere with foot traffic.
BANGKOK — Imagine Paris without croissants, Rome without pasta, and Tokyo without sushi. Seems impossible to do, considering how food and travel often go hand in hand. But one world-class city has done the impossible, banning one of its most famous tourist offerings outright.
Widely regarded as the #1 street food destination on earth, Bangkok has successfully imposed a new ban on street food in an effort to bring “order and hygiene” to the city’s bustling streets. Bangkok’s City Hall has issued the ban in all 50 districts and “there will be no let-up in this operation,” said Wanlop Suwandee, the city’s governor’s chief advisor.
The city government has already enforced clean sweeps in certain districts and pushed up move-out dates for vendors from June 1 to effective immediately, reports Uproxx.
Officials see street food as an illegal nuisance and have been emboldened by the military junta that has ruled the country since a 2014 coup. The government has stressed the need to clean up Thai society, whether it is corrupt politicians or crowded footpaths.
That has led to sometimes ham-fisted crackdowns on everything from street markets to beach umbrellas to overpriced lottery tickets. Observers say the poor, many of whom were supporters of the ousted government and its populist policies, have borne the brunt of many of the junta-backed campaigns and that the clean sidewalk effort will hit the vendors and their working-class customers hardest.
Thai crackdowns on corruption, prostitution, pollution, road safety and what-have-you – even those by the junta – are notoriously ephemeral, but officials are talking tough.
Critics say the government needs to do more to help vendors and to help preserve some the unique chaos that gives Bangkok its soul, which is rapidly being lost to government regulations and redevelopment for condos, shopping malls and office towers.
If the campaign against street food sticks, tourists will no longer stumble upon fried worms, grilled pork intestines or the legendarily smelly fruit durian. And it’s unlikely that the city’s hip bars and fancy restaurants will be handing out food in plastic bags sealed tight with a knotted rubber band any time soon.
With file from The Associated Press