Yesterday, the National News Bureau of Thailand reported that the country’s capital would host the Bangkok Street Food Festival this June. On its surface, the announcement makes sense: Both food publications like this one and Major news organizations have repeatedly named Bangkok as one of the best street food cities in the world. But the announcement comes with a seriously bizarre caveat: Media outlets recently reported that Bangkok had banned street food vendors entirely—literally just days ago.
Earlier this week Wanlop Suwandee, chief adviser to Bangkok’s governor, appeared to be very clear about a planned street food ban. “The [Bangkok Metropolitan Administration] is now working to get rid of the street vendors from all 50 districts of Bangkok and return the pavements to the pedestrians,” Wanlop was quoted as saying. As if that wasn’t unequivocal enough, he continued, “The street vendors have seized the pavement space for too long and we already provide them with space to sell food and other products legally in the market, so there will be no let-up in this operation. Every street vendor will have to move out.”
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Wanlop’s stance would appear to fly directly in the face of the National News Bureau’s report that the forthcoming Bangkok Street Food Festival would be held in just two months’ time thanks to the work of The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and—get this—the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration. Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the TAT, reportedly suggested that, though details were still up in the air, the event would offer up street food on major tourist streets throughout the city.
So where does Bangkok stand on street food? Well, by yesterday afternoon, The Nation had changed its tune, suggesting that the BMA was backing away from its previous stance and offering up a fresh contradictory quote from Wanlop. “Street food and street vendors are still allowed in the zoned areas, as we are trying to make the areas tidy and clean, but sellers must comply with the law,” he said this time around. Furthermore, the BMA reportedly made a formal acknowledgement that, yes, street food is an important part of the city’s culture.
Meanwhile, the National News Bureau of Thailand also presented a follow up article. “Govt does not ban street food, only seeks to keep orderliness,” today’s headline stated. In this report, a new character emerged: Government Spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd. “[Sansern] dismissed news reports by some foreign media that the government is banning the sales of street food,” the NNBT wrote. “He said the government had received complaints from the general public and tourists regarding the disorderliness of pavements due to the placement of street food carts, thus the government is calling for cooperation among vendors to keep the area orderly, and to ensure food hygiene practices.” This government spokesman then also reportedly took an opportunity to hammer home just how important street food is to Thailand’s identity.
In the end, it would appear that, no, street food is not entirely banned, which means, yes, a Bangkok Street Food Festival could actually take place in June. You might just want to wait a few days before you buy your tickets. The government still sounds a little confused about what exactly it wants to do.