Monday, March 16, 2015

Depressed about Khlong Thom Market

As some of you have heard, Khong Thom is one of the latest victims of the crack down on street sales in the big mango.  The BMA (Bangkok Metropolitan Administration), backed by hundreds of 'green police' or inspectors,  has been targeting street vendors throughout the city in an effort to clean-up access roads and walkways, etc.  It started on streets like Silom and Sukhumvit and has now gone to many other areas in the city.  Even in my neighborhood, many areas where I once bought food are now cleared and the vendors have disappeared.  

I went to Khlong Thom to look for a drill and drill bits and found about 2/3 of the street stalls were gone and  hundreds of 'green police" milling around.  Inside the market, there were many more undercover police trying to look like shoppers as back-up.  How do I know they were undercover?  Lets just say they had some apparel that is very odd and not typical of the shoppers who go there regularly.  I didn't get what I needed so I left after taking a few photos.  All I can say was that there were a lot of angry people yesterday.

'Inspectors' surround a couple of protesters at Khlong Tom yesterday when I visited

I am not sure who is behind the clean-up effort, but if its an attempt to make Bangkok more sterile and look like Singapore (as its rumored), its not a well thought out idea.  Bangkok is unique in its atmosphere where street markets, 24 hour sidewalk food stalls, wide open nightlife, and smiling faces make it one of the world's most desirable places to visit.  Taking away some of these elements to make the city a look alike for Singapore is a stupid idea.  If people want to visit Singapore, they will go to Singapore - not a wannabe look alike.  Singapore is a great city and one of my favorite places to visit but it has its own special character and governing style.  People live and come to Bangkok because of what it is.

Another tragedy of this effort are the thousands of people who have lost their livelihood.  For many, these little stalls are their only source of income.  There is no welfare, unemployment, or social security in Thailand and these little businesses provide thousands with an opportunity in an environment of free enterprise enviable by many western countries.  In America, a young boy can some day be president by being well connected with the system -- here in Thailand, the boy of a street vendor can also someday grow up to be rich and the Prime Minister of the country.  Would BMA prefer to have people in the streets making a living or in the streets rioting over living conditions?

Another issue I have with eliminating food vendors is that many in Bangkok live in small rental units that do not have any kitchen facilities.  If they are lucky, they might have a hot plate or hot pot for some water, but in most cases they depend on what they buy  or eat from cheap food vendors in the neighborhoods to survive.  Little 'villages' are all over the city, with their center being micro markets and food vendors forming a place where people can meet. 

Lastly, I don't have any issue with illegal vendor clogging up streets like Silom being moved out, nor do I have problems with them getting rid of the portable bars that once lined the Sukhumvit after hours being shut down.  However, 3000 people and an entire neighborhood market that has been operating for over a decade is wrong.  

I am not a rabble rouser or trouble maker and have supported nearly all the changes that the current junta has implemented and proposed.  I love this country and city so much that I have made it my primary home and have chosen to bring my daughter up here.  But should this post be viewed by the powers that be, just consider this post a suggestion for a better way for making the country better but keeping the people happy as was promised.  Don't fix things that are not broken!  Bring happiness to the people again.

BMA....Bangkok's tagline is "The City of Life"...don't kill it by making it another Singapore.  One Singapore in enough in this region.

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