Vending in Public Space: The Case of Bangkok
Series Subtitle:
WIEGO Policy Brief (Urban Policies) No 16
Yasmeen, Gisèle and Narumol Nirathron.
May, 2014
Publication Type:

Vending in Public Space: The Case of Bangkok

This policy brief reviews cultural, economic, political and other broader social foundations of vending in public spaces in Bangkok, including the role of vendors themselves. In addition, it discusses opportunities and challenges associated with vending in public space in Bangkok and what others can learn from the specific experience of Bangkok.


This brief is part of the WIEGO Publication Series.

View list of all WIEGO briefs.


May 2017 Update to Policy Brief (Urban Policies) No 16 -

Bangkok has seen a dramatic shift in its policy towards street vendors following the 2014 Thai military coup.  As described in this brief, the legal framework on vending in Bangkok allows local officers to designate vending areas and hours and grant permissions to vendors to operate in these locations. This permission however can be easily revoked, leaving vendors vulnerable to changes in policy.


Whereas the period leading up to 2013 was characterized by favorable BMA policies (Yasmeen and Nirathorn 2013, Kusakabe 2014), 2014 saw an unprecedented swing towards repression of vendors at the city level. With orders from the country’s military junta under the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority is seeking to reduce the number of vendors under the motto “Return the footpath to pedestrians.” The policy has further hardened under the new Governor Aswin Kwanmuang, who was appointed by the Prime Minister in 2016 following the suspension of elected governor Sukhumbhand Pariatra for corruption charges.


BMA’s new “regulating” campaign initially focused on central city areas, but has recently expanded outwards. Street vendors in Pradit Torakan community on Phahon Yothin road in Chatuchuk District, for instance, had received notice of their removal from the main road in October 2016. The campaign has entailed the revocation of designated status for hundreds of legal vending areas, evictions in areas that have long tolerated unlicensed vending, bans on day-time vending, and relocation of vendors at short notice at the threat of fines. The crackdown has focused on pavements on main roads, generally allowing vendors to shift to smaller alleys with less foot traffic.


The campaign has been highly effective. By 2016, BMA had eliminated or reduced the working hours of vendors in many of Bangkok’s most iconic and historical markets such as the Pak Klong Talad Flower Market, Saphan Lek Market, and Siam Square. (See Khaosod’s “Vanishing Bangkok” for a map of areas cleared through the eviction campaigns – although the map has not kept pace with the pace of evictions – Mokkhasen 2016a). Official BMA statistics show a reduction in registered (i.e. licensed) vendors by almost half between 2014 and 2016, from over 21,000 to 10,700 (Bangkok Metropolitan Statistics Book 2016). The total number of affected vendors is unknown but presumably much larger.


In April 2017, an advisor to the governor announced that vendors would be cleared from the remainder of the city within four months. Following a barrage of international media criticism focused on the impacts for Bangkok tourism, the BMA revised its statement in part, offering assurances that vendors in two of the city’s prime tourist destinations would be permitted to remain and that the campaign would focus on improving hygiene and safety rather than clearance. However, the intention to evict vendors from other locations across Bangkok appears unaltered.

Sarah Reed, Bangkok Focal City Coordinator, 26 April 2017


Fredrickson, T. (2015) “Saphan Lek clearout continues as vendors plead for more time.” Bangkok Post, 21 Oct 2015.
Kusakabe, K. (2014) Street-vending policies and practices: A case study of Bangkok. International Labor Organization
Mokkhasen, S. (2016) “Vanishing Bangkok: What is the capital being remade into, and for whom?” Khao Sod English, 5 July 2016.
Mokkhasen, S. (2016b) “Flower Market ‘Cleanup’ Conflict Continues.” Khaosod English. April  4 2016.
Mokkgasen, S. (2016c) “This is what Saphan Lek Looks like Now”.  Khaosod English. 14 July 2016.
Mokkhasen, S. (2016d) “Say Goodbye to Night Market Vendors on Silom Road.” Khaosod English. 13 May 2016
Tangworamongkon, C. (2014) Street Vending in Bangkok: Legal and Policy Frameworks, Livelihood Challenges and Collective Responses. WIEGO Law and Informality Project. HomeNet Thailand and WIEGO
Yasmeen and Nirathorn (2014) Vending in Public Space: The Case of Bangkok. WIEGO Urban Policy Brief No 16. Women in the Informal Economy: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO)

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