By Kornrawee Panyasuppakun
They said nearly two months of silence had passed since the government set up a committee on September 10 made up of top government authorities and representatives from the vendors, to reconsider bans on street hawking.
“We are confident that the government led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will deliver the promise that he will not leave anyone behind,” read their statement. The group said they would make a move again if no talks had begun by November 10.
The military government’s ultimate plan is to ban street hawkers in all 683 areas of Bangkok. More than 400 areas have already been shut down, affecting about 10,000 hawkers. This is part of the policy to return the pavements, once jammed or made dirty by stalls and carts, to pedestrians.
But academics said vendors should be regulated instead of evicted.
Street vending makes living in Bangkok possible for grassroots and the middle class, said Narumol Nirathron of the Social Administration department of Thammasat University. Street food feedS low-income people, like motorbike taxi drivers and construction workers; even middle-class and salaried workers rely on it, she said.
Poonsap Tulaphan from Homenet Thailand said instead of imposing a draconic ban on the vendors, the government should register them, collect taxes and write a law to specifically regulate street vending.
Street vending is illegal according to public order and traffic laws. Some vendors said they had to pay officers “fines” of Bt500-1,000 to operate their businesses.
Now that they could not do their usual business, many have lost a big chuck of incomes.
Siriwan Neesang said before the ban she made about Bt10,000 on a busy day selling tourist trinkets like handmade keychains and hair accesseries to foreigners visiting Silom.
Although now she is permitted to set up the stall in front of a shophouse by the kind shophouse owner, she makes only Bt500-1,000 daily.
“The bustling area is much more quiet now. People don’t want to buy anything when there are a few stalls to shop,” she said.
Siriwan is one of a few lucky vendors.
The ban puts many hawkers in extreme stress, said Raywat Chobtom, the leader of the street vendors network for sustainable development, which represents about 10,000 vendors across 25 districts of Bangkok.
Many people have chosen death to end the problem, he said.
Twelve street vendors at Klong Thom market, who have been banned since early 2015,had committed suicide, he said, adding that one of them had shot his wife and two children before shooting himself.