On Order and Conflict: Understanding the Thai Street Vending Environment
Faculty of Architecture, Kasetsart University
Last modified: June 8, 2007
Presentation date: 06/11/2007 11:30 AM in ISCTE-II C104
Street vendors’ struggle over public space and the state’s attempts to control them have long been a part of urban scenes worldwide. In a city like Bangkok, street vending prospers, providing job opportunities to the unemployed. The city has experienced limited success in regulating vendors; the important social, economic, and (ironically) environmental roles that vendors play make it extremely difficult for the authorities to control them.
There is a dynamic interplay between the vendor, the Thai public and the Thai authorities. This three-way interrelationship exists on human-to-human and human-to-environment levels. Factors operative on the human level include: the patron-client system in Thai society; the concept of extended family; Thai interpersonal behavior; vendors as an alternative to corporate merchandising; and vendors as symbols of nostalgia to Thai people. Factors operative on the environmental level include: the Thai concept of public space, State control of this and public reaction; territoriality in vending sites; and how vendors provide meaning of place to the Thai people.
In order to improve the situation of the Thai street vendor and avoid conflict in their use of public space, it is necessary to be mindful of all three stakeholder groups rather than just focusing on the vendor. The success of any proposed change will depend on improved understanding and cooperation between the street vendor, the Thai people and the Thai government.