Brace yourselves wanderlusting foodies: One of the most iconic food spots on every traveler’s bucket list is about to go the way of the dodo. The Military Junta — which took control of Thailand after a 2014 coup d’état — has been trying to “return happiness” to the country, and for some reason a big part of that is getting rid of the street food vendors that so many travelers consider the heart and soul of Bangkok. Feel free to shed a tear and pour out some Thai tea on the sidewalk because an era is coming to a close.
Bangkok’s City Hall wants to bring “order and hygiene” to the city’s bustling streets. To do so, they’re moving on all 50 Bangkok districts with resolve. Bangkok’s governor’s chief advisor, Wanlop Suwandee, said that “there will be no let-up in this operation. Every street vendor will have to move out.” The city government has already enforced clean sweeps in some districts and accelerated some move out dates from June 1st to right now.
From an outside perspective, this looks and feels like a situation where a government and some people in higher social classes want progress that comes at the cost of a city’s character and soul. That being said, there is precedent for this move. Singapore’s government similarly banned all street food carts in the 1950s and by the 1960s the hawker center food culture had solidified. Now there are two hawker food stalls that have Michelin stars. A similar tactic was used by the Hong Kong government in the 1970s towards the Dai pai dong street food vendors, which moved them into food centers around the city, leaving only 25 dai pai dongs today. Both incidents were met with similar disdain at the time. But it worked out in the end for them. And, let’s face it, being in a centralized and secure location is a safer forum to prepare and serve people food.