Bangkok City Hall's efforts to regulate the use of pavements across Thailand is damaging one of it's biggest tourism draws accord to an expert at Chulalongkorn University's Urban Design and Development Centre (UCDC).
"The government is trying to make street vendors disappear, despite the global recognition of Thailand's street food scene. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) must find a better policy to manage space, or risk losing its tourism magnet status and hurting the local economy."
Mr.Adisk made the statement held at Thamasat University during his seminar entitled "Brainstorming for Practical Rules for Street Vendors". He floated the idea of a "co-eating space" which he said could possibly replace street carts which are seen by some old-fashioned and unhygienic. This would allow food vendors to remain on pavements still - a huge concern for street vendors and the removal of which that seen widespread backlash, not just from tourists. In several countries, pavements are designed with rest areas that can be used by street vendors, he said.
"City Hall can do more than just keep vendors off sidewalks. Public spaces, including sidewalks, are not only intended for pedestrians."
Mr.Adisak stated that certain places such as the area underneath the BTS Ari station should be declared off-limits to vendors as they are reserved for ambulances. However, areas with pavements wide enough are to be split and designated as space for street vendors should be redesigned to make them attractive for everyone involved.
The government will have to invest in more sanitary and waste disposal systems to ensure food hygiene and prevent the vendors' activities from affecting the environment he said.
"The BMA has the power to manage and address all these issues through better regulations. It can do more than just keep vendors off sidewalks. It is estimated that there are about 300,000 street vendors in Bangkok alone, 37% of who are food vendors. Assuming that each vendor family has four to five member, the BMA's regulation may affect the lives of between 1.3 million and 1.5 million people. All they want is a space where they can earn a living. They are not asking for any financial support from the government, or anything else."
Poonsap Suanmuang, Foundation for Labour and Employment Promotion.
Narumol Nirathron, an academic with Thammasat University's Faculty of Social Administration, agreed with Ms Poonsap saying that the BMA's regulation is a top-down policy that adversely affects a large number of people without consideration for those at the bottom.
The BMA executives however, tend to view street vendors as non-Bangkok residents who are causing problems with the city's cleanliness and waste management, according to Ms Narumol. Natdanai Kulthatchayakaranan, a street vendor on Silom Road, said many vendors like him have been cooperating with the BMA's efforts to better regulate the use of Bangkok's pavements.
"They were always willing to move when asked to stay away from roads and keep the pavements clean, but in the end they were told to leave nonetheless. "We are living solely on the income we earn from selling things. They are taking the money that we have set aside for our children's education, as well as to pay off our household debts."