Khaosan Goes Quiet After Police Ignore New City Rules

Khaosan Road sidewalks were clear of vendors Aug. 2 as new regulations were put on hold. Photo: Matichon
Khaosan Road sidewalks were clear of vendors Aug. 2 as new regulations were put on hold. Photo: Matichon

BANGKOK — Making new rules doesn’t mean much when even the police ignore them, as City Hall found out this week.

Khaosan Road vendors said Thursday they expect compromise on new regulations after the city failed to win police support for them. The street sellers who rose up in defiance Wednesday said they will remain closed until the city and police agree whose rules will be enforced.

The bustling street went quiet this morning, one day after local cops declined to enforce a city order the vendors move off the sidewalks and into designated areas in the street. The president of the Khaosan vendors association said they won’t open for business until Monday while the official behind the push negotiates with local police.

“We’re going to stop selling until Monday,” said Yada Pornpetrumpa, head of the local vendors guild. “That’s our weekly cleaning day, and then our representatives will meet with the Phra Nakhon administration to discuss whatever result of the talks between City Hall and the local police.”

The rushed enforcement and poor communication led about 100 vendors to march Tuesday on City Hall to ask for compromise on rules they said were impractical and imposed without consultation. They were turned down by Deputy Gov. Sakoltee Phattiyakul, who stood firm that they must be enforced. The vendors accused him of dismissing their concerns and vowed to defy him.

After a street cleaning was held Wednesday morning, the merchants set up their stalls as normal on the sidewalks the deputy governor wanted clear on the first day his order was supposed to go into effect. That led to a brief spat with municipal enforcers, who threatened to press charges against them.

Sakoltee himself later arrived and instructed his tessakit officers to photograph those violating the new rules and ban them from the area. The real police however did nothing, and the vendors operated as usual.

That brought Sakoltee to the table. In the evening, he called for an emergency meeting with the vendors and all related officials to find a solution. He said the police were unclear in why they didn’t enforce his policies.

“City Hall has already discussed the issue with all related parties, including the police,” he said. “However, when the day came, some other legal issues were raised and it prevented enforcement of the rules and regulations. I’m not sure what the reasons are.”

One reason may be that the police enforce traffic laws, which call for keeping the streets clear, while City Hall’s domain ends at the edge of the sidewalk.

Chanasongkhram police chief Chakkarit Chosoongnern said Khaosan Road hasn’t been exempted from regular traffic laws, which require that streets be kept clear.

Sakoltee acknowledged yesterday that Khaosan Road has not been exempted, despite it being closed to traffic and operating as a busy street market for decades.

There’s also the fact that, according to the vendors, the cops themselves own many of the street businesses.

Ever since Sakoltee first announced last month that the rules were coming, vendors there have complained of poor communication. They said they weren’t told what they would be and everyone including the police, city and local administrators seemed to have a different idea of them.

They accuse Sakoltee of pushing for poorly considered rules and mismanaging their implementation.

“He claimed that it had all been negotiated, like everything was already in place,” Yada said. “But there’s no justification for putting these extra duties on the police.”

Yada said she would meet with all the vendors today to discuss possible outcomes.

“We have to make everything clear. We have to decide what we’re going to do if we have to be on the street, and what the consequences will be if we don’t,” she said. “If City Hall still cannot come to an agreement with the police, the governor will have to be the one deciding what to do with Khaosan Road.”

But for now, at least, the street strife seems to be on hold.

“Both sides are now backing off,” she said.

Related stories:

Khaosan Vendors to Defy City Hall’s New Rules

Feeling Spurned, Khaosan Sellers to March on City Hall

Police the Cops Before ‘Choking Us,’ Khaosan Vendors Say

In Reversal, City Won’t Spare Khaosan, Chinatown Vendors