Silom Road’s infamous night market might be the latest to bite the dust as part of City Hall’s ongoing cleanliness and order campaign. But it will come at a cost.
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) is hardening up its stance against vendors taking up the sidewalk of one of the city’s busiest tourist streets, with the chairman of the advisor to the Governor of Bangkok, Vallop Suwandee, calling for all Silom vendors to clear out by Aug 1 (a deadline extended from Jun 1). The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) says it’s offering 10,000 stalls to vendors in the Bangrak area for them to relocate. But those working in the area say that’s not going to help vendors whose businesses are designed to sell to tourists. Here, we speak to “Orr” (real name withheld), 30, who has been selling carved soaps in the area for six years, about what the move will mean to her business.
What’s the situation like for you right now?
This is the worst year ever for business, and I think it’s the same for stalls inside Soi Patpong. I’ve been here for 5-6 years, and it has never been as quiet as it has for the past two months. I barely sell any products.
What has your income been like in the past?
I used to sell clothes at Platinum but I moved here 2-3 years ago. At that time, I made B4,000-5,000 per day, but I’d be happy even at B2,000-3,000. These days I can’t even hit B1,000 per day.
How will the BMA’s relocation of vendors from Silom Road affect you?
It would be impossible for me to move into Soi Patpong. Rent there is around B12,000/month for a meter-long space, while here it’s B3,000-5,000 depending on the “land owners”—and that’s not going to the BMA. There’s also a B500 monthly fee to pay the municipal police. Also my target customers are foreigners. I sell flower-shaped carved soaps from Sam Peng, they’re souvenirs. It would be hard to sell this type of merchandise elsewhere.
So what’s your plan B?
There is no plan B. Already I can’t sell my products and I don’t know what to do next. To tell you the truth, even people with bachelor’s degrees still find it super-hard to get jobs right now. For me it’s even harder because making soaps and selling them is the only thing I know.
How have the changes to selling hours affected you?
During the yellow shirt and red shirt mobs, we were allowed to set up our stalls at 3-4pm but foreigners were scared of the political situation. That’s understandable. I mean who would come and buy souvenirs at that time? About two years ago, the hour changed to 7pm and now it’s 9pm. We’re basically night workers now.
Do you sympathize with people who consider vendors on the sidewalk to be a problem?
I admit that the sellers’ motorcycles on the road can be a problem for commuters but I don’t see how it affects office workers since we set up so late. Thai people have already left the area by then.
Do you think you will get financial support from Bangkok officials?
I have little faith that Bangkok officials will lend any financial support. Most of us are from the countryside in Isaan. They once even told us that we are not Bangkokians, and that we should go back home because people should only earn a living and reap profits from the area they are from.
See also: Who can save Bangkok's sidewalks?