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Bangkok Banned Street Vendors Last Year. Now, Merchants Are Fighting Back.

Last year, Bangkok's military junta imposed a ban on street vendors on the grounds of maintaining the city's "order and hygiene."

According to Channel News Asia, street vendors in Bangkok are fighting against eviction as a result of the city's street vendor ban. On September 4, 1,200 members of the Network of Thai Vendors for Sustainable Development marched to the prime minister's office and submitted a letter asking for the ban to be overturned.

Since its government takeover in 2014, the military junta has cracked down on sidewalk vendors in an effort to clean up the city. Since 2016, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has relocated 20,000 vendors from 478 locations and is currently looking at 205 more locations, while also tightening regulations in recent weeks. However, the new locations aren't working in favor of many vendors.

"It was a narrow market on the second floor of [a] building. It was impossible to sell anything," a seafood seller told the news source about their new location. "Before, I had enough to pay for school, water and electricity. Now we have to rely on loan sharks who charge us 20% interest."

Food hawkers have long been a major part of the city's appeal. According to Narumol Nirathron, a professor at Bangkok's Thammasat University, 87% of Bangkok residents buy food and other items from street vendors. A quarter of the street vendors' clienteles are middle- to low-income earners who earn less than THB9,000 (approximately US$280) a month. 

Seventy percent of the vendor owners are women, while more than two-thirds have little education and are over 40 years old, making them the most vulnerable citizens. "The cancellation of licenses and evictions have resulted in vendors losing their life savings, pulling their children out of school, and losing assets such as homes and vehicles," Narumol told Reuters, adding that these vendors can help reduce crime since they act as the "eyes and ears" of the neighborhood.

"Let's call it what it is: elitism and corporate gentrification," added Sarah Reed, from the advocacy group Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing.

[Photo via Creative Common]

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