STREET vendors in Bangkok's Tha Chang-Tha Phrachan area are lamenting that the city's "landscape improvement" operation, which prohibited all footpath stalls from Monday onwards, would "kill the area's charm and identity".
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has begun re-regulating street traders along the area’s Maharaj Road – most of whom were 334 amulet sellers in the area known as “Holy Item Field” market.
Next, the city plans to re-regulate Bang Lamphu and Pak Klong Talad early next year.
BMA has already reclaimed Klong Ong Ang from Sapan Han-Sapan Lek vendors and has re-regulated the Klong Thom Market.
“Tha Phrachan was known for its amulet trades, like Pak Klong Talad is know for flowers and Klong Thom for spare parts. So if people here are gone, the market, which is the area’s identity, would also be gone,” said 47-year-old amulet vendor Eak (not his real name).
He said he had moved from Ratchabophit pier to Maharaj Road four years ago to sell Buddha images at Bt80 to Bt100 each –earning Bt300-Bt400 a day. He said the city’s suggestion for affected vendors to sell goods at Rama 2 and Bang Bua Thong markets was impossible, due to the low incomes.
Despite the threat of being fined up to Bt5,000 for running a business on Tha Phra Chan footpath, Eak said he had no idea what else to do and where to go. Each day he still comes with amulets in his shoulder bag in hopes of finding former or prospective buyers. He also hoped to talk with friends about further plans, possibly about going to Ayutthaya, Phitsanulok, or Suphan Buri provinces to sell amulets.
Another amulet vendor Lek (not her real name), 45, said she moved out of Maharaj Road on Sunday. She recalled beginning this business 30 years ago, selling items on a piece of cloth on the footpath. Lek said the area was known to foreigners for its holy items. She had some regular customers from Malaysia who bought them in bulk. She said she once made up to Bt3,000 a day. “Now I earn nothing.”
Lek urged the authorities to review the operation as it seriously affected people “just to make way for the area’s beautification”.
Amulet seller Prakob Armonsin, 59, said he too had sold holy items at Tha Prachan and Tha Chang for over 30 years.
He said he used to pay Bt20 rental fee a month to use the footpath to sell his goods, while some vendors selling from a table would pay Bt1,000 a month. “Now I have nowhere to go,” he said.
Fruit seller Vilaipon Aumpapai, 24 said the city’s clearing operation meant the end of her four-year-old fruit-stand business. She still came to set up a stall on Monday, as she couldn’t let the money she spent to buy fruit produce be wasted, even though the risk of being fined was high.
A city law enforcer who asked not to be named said the street vendors had been told about the ban a month ago.
From now on, city officers would closely monitor the area to keep it clear of street-side stalls and obstacles.