Mr Tum the motorbike taxi driver
Bangkok Street Life – Mr Tum the motorbike taxi driver
March 6, 2016

Bangkok Street Life – Sad times at the flower market

Sad times at the flower market

Bangkok’s beautiful and vibrant flower market, Pak Khlong Talat, is sadly undergoing some changes that will affect the atmosphere of this area forever.

Street vendors in Bangkok, including those around the flower market, have slowly taken over many of the city’s main roads. The sheer number of street vendors has obstructed footpaths forcing pedestrians to walk in the road that in turn is causing, even more, traffic congestion.

With the growing complaints and signs of resentment from many local residents in the affected areas, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), started a campaign in July 2015 that will see the reorganization of public spaces in Bangkok in an attempt to reclaim footpaths that are being used by unauthorized street vendors.

The flower market is amongst a dozen areas of the city that have been targeted by the BMA, which will ultimately have dire consequences for many of the hundreds of street vendors here.

“On our Bangkok bike tours through the city, we always visit the flower market. This Tuesday afternoon was the first time that we witnessed city officials patrolling the footpaths. It was a very sad thing to watch, and we wonder how this is going to affect the life’s of the people selling flowers in the streets around the market. ”

Matthew – tour guide at Follow Me Bangkok Bicycle Tours

Bangkok is well known for its street vendors, visitors and locals adore the energy and colour that they bring to the street life. Street vendors are an integral part of the vibrant daily life in the city, and they help to create Bangkok’s unique identity and beauty, but their future is at risk.

Street vendors must be registered, require a permit, and should work in strict zones that have been designated by the BMA with at least one meter of space for pedestrians to pass. However, there are thousands in Bangkok that simply ignore the rules and laws, and with city officials turning a blind eye to law enforcement the situation has now come to a head.

Many of the street vendors at the flower market have been selling flowers here for decades, but those that occupy space along the main roads are now facing a crackdown. Even though the BMA gave two months notice to move to newly allocated areas, many of the street vendors have refused and remain to trade illegally.

It appears that the main issue is that most of the vendors cannot afford to start paying rent, which can be as much as their current monthly profit. They are obviously concerned for their, and their families’ futures and whether their businesses will actually survive.

Several decades ago Singapore also relocated their street vendors to dedicated and regulated centres and they have been very successful. This approach, which is in place here, will only work in Bangkok if there is strict law enforcement to ensure fairness and transparency.

It appears to be a double-edged sword and both sides to the dispute seem to be at fault. On one hand the law must be abided by, and on the other, the law must be enforced. With the risk of destroying so many livelihoods and the essence of Bangkok, could a more mutually agreeable and beneficial solution not be found?

What would you suggest?

You can see how busy the streets surrounding the flower market used to be: Bangkok Flower Market, Pak Khlong Talat 

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