Klong Toey Market Vendors Threaten Road Blockade Amidst Renovation Dispute
Vendors at Bangkok’s bustling Klong Toey fresh market are up in arms, threatening to blockade Rama IV Road in protest against the market’s new management, Legal Professional Co. The dispute escalated when the company began renovations, leading to a standoff involving over 100 vendors, police, and company staff this Thursday.
The heart of the conflict lies in the vendors’ demand for Bangkok Police Chief Pol Lt Gen Worapong Chiewpreecha to facilitate negotiations between them and Legal Professional. The police chief had previously pledged his support to mediate the escalating tensions, according to the vendors.
Thammanat Prompao, chairman of Legal Professional, pointed fingers at the market’s former operator, Sriratana Sitthichoke, also known as Jeh Toi, accusing him of instigating the protest. Thammanat alleges that Sriratana has been rallying the vendors against his company with threats of losing their stalls if they do not resist the new management.
Further complicating the issue, Thammanat revealed that after Legal Professional secured the contract from the Port Authority of Thailand to oversee the market, a former deputy Bangkok police chief, reportedly close to Jeh Toi, suggested the company might find it advantageous to step back from the project. Thammanat, however, dismissed the proposal, asserting his company’s dedication to market improvements.
In a bid to quell the unrest, Thammanat has offered an olive branch, proposing to withdraw all legal actions against the protesting vendors on the condition that they cease their demonstrations. The ongoing dispute has not only disrupted the daily operations of one of Bangkok’s key food supply hubs but also resulted in significant traffic disruptions on Rama IV Road, underscoring the deep-rooted tensions between market vendors and the new management.
Oh, here we go again, another chapter in the never-ending saga of Khlong Toey market and its neighboring slum, caught in the crosshairs of the ever-greedy Goliath, aka the Port Authority of Thailand (PAT). It’s the classic David versus Goliath tale, but with a Thai twist, where the underdog is not just fighting off a single giant but a hydra-headed monster of corporate greed and bureaucratic ambition that’s been salivating over this prime real estate for over three decades.
This land, a battleground of dreams and despair, has seen generations of vendors and slum dwellers standing firm against the tidal wave of eviction threats, all in the name of progress, or more accurately, profit. The PAT, in its infinite wisdom, has long eyed the slum and market territory for “development” into something more befitting their balance sheets – a commercial complex here, a parking zone there, because heaven forbid we don’t have enough shopping malls or parking lots.
The narrative fed to us by Thailand’s English press is just scratching the surface of this deep-seated conflict, a mere appetizer to the feast of resistance served by the spirited inhabitants of Khlong Toey. The 1993 master plan of eviction and relocation for the “greater good” almost saw the light of day, were it not for the resilience of community mobilization and the fortunate timing of the Asian financial crisis, which, for once, played the role of the unlikely hero by putting a damper on PAT’s grand visions.
So, as we find ourselves amidst yet another “new period of conflict,” let’s not be fooled into thinking this is a fresh drama. It’s just the latest rerun in a long-running series of urban space control, where the slum movement and the iconic Bangkok wet market stand defiant in the face of the PAT’s relentless attempts to dress up their avarice as urban development.
The lingering question remains – how long can our David hold out against the relentless march of Goliath? Will the estimated 70-100,000 souls, who’ve turned slum living into an assertive movement, and the bustling heart of Bangkok’s commerce, manage to keep the wolves at bay? Or will the city’s elite, in their unending quest for more, finally pave paradise to put up their parking lot? Only time will tell in this urban jungle where the stakes are high, and the battle lines are drawn not just over land, but over the very soul of Bangkok.