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Bangkok Won’t Ban Street Food After All

The Tourism Authority of Thailand clarifies that vendors will be able to continue selling street food under new regulations

(Olev Sidorenko - Flickr/Creative Commons)
smithsonian.com

Update, April 20, 2017: The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has issued a statement to clarify that street food vendors won't be banned in Bangkok after all. As a press release confirms: "TAT has contacted the BMA and found that while there are measures in place to control food vendors and enforce current regulations, there is no outright ban on the sale of street food."

Thailand is a must-visit destination for the devoted foodie—a place where tiny food stalls can be found on seemingly every corner, filled with inexpensive and delicious street food for hungry passers-by. But in one of the country’s most delectable destinations that tradition is about to end. As the AFP reports, Bangkok authorities plan to remove all street food stalls by the end of the year.

It’s a blow to anyone with a belly and a craving for quick, authentic eats. The controversial ban is the doing of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, the local government of Thailand’s capital. AFP reports that Bangkok officials tell reporters that the ban, which affects all street vendors, will bring back “order and hygiene” to the city, clearing up the pavement and making the city cleaner.

As The Guardian’s Oliver Holmes reports, the move is part of a larger campaign by Thailand’s junta to tackle what they see as corruption, prostitution, and disorder in the country. The military junta, which took over in a coup in 2014, has been widely criticized for censoring the press and doing things like removing a plaque that acknowledged the country’s move to a democracy in the 1930s.

Both tourists and locals stand to lose if the city’s food stalls are shuttered. Last year, one index named Bangkok the world’s most-visited city—in part because of its vibrant food, and in 2015, the World Travel & Tourism Council reports, a whopping 20.8 percent of Thailand’s gross domestic product came from visitors.

But will Bangkok’s ban on street eats be permanent? Time will tell. A food blogger tells Holmes that previous attempts to wipe out vendors have failed. Perhaps there’s a glimmer of hope for foodies and hungry locals after all—but next time you’re in the city and you see someone selling food, you might want to buy an extra skewer or two for good measure.

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