Free Food Curfew as Trash Floods Sanam Luang

Mourners receive free food Tuesday at Sanam Luang in Bangkok.

BANGKOK — A curfew on free food giveaways at the Sanam Luang begins at 8pm tonight in response to the enormous volume of trash being generated by the tens of thousands of mourners encamped there.

Measures to reduce the amount of garbage being generated and improve health and safety are being put in place before the Grand Palace opens Saturday for the public to enter and pay their respects to King Bhumibol, who died Oct. 13.

“Sanam Luang receives 40,000 to 80,000 visitors per day,” Treedao Apaiyawong of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration said Wednesday. “After Saturday, we will be ready to receive this number and more for the coming year-long period of mourning.”

The mourners which have converged on the field outside the palace have produced an average of 66 tons of trash per day, a weight equivalent to 22 Asian elephants. The garbage output peaked Sunday at 594 tons.

Because most of the trash is food waste, and there has been a great surplus of food brought in, officials have banned the distribution of free food after 8pm so that cleanup efforts can begin at that time. Water can still be provided.

Plastic bottles and bags account for much of balance of the daily rubbish, with styrofoam containers making up about five tons.

Newly appointed Bangkok Gov. Aswin Kwanmueng urged people giving out food to use paper or biodegradable containers instead of styrofoam. He said mourners can bring their own containers or bottles from home as well.

More than 2,300 of nearly 7,000 volunteers at the scene have been tasked solely with sorting trash for recyclables at the scene.

Concerns about the waste situation accompanied a number of new measures to increase cleanliness and order.

Officials on Tuesday also banned street vendors from selling goods in the area, as some products were deemed inappropriate. Security cameras and officers have also been put in place to monitor and prosecute violators.

Motorcyclists offering free rides have also been asked to register. People with children are encouraged to put their contact information on their child’s body in case they become separated.

Those needing assistance should look for balloons marking tents set up by City Hall.