By Panu Wongcha-um
BANGKOK (Reuters) - Hundreds of street vendors in the Thai capital's bustling backpacker district of Khaosan road ignored a ban on street vendors introduced on Wednesday and carried on business as usual.
Bangkok imposed a ban on all commercial activity on the sidewalks of Khaosan road which for decades has been filled with food hawkers, shops and stalls selling bags, wigs and hippy-era clothing, surrounded by bars, restaurants, tattoo parlours and cheap hostels.
The vendors were ordered to move to a smaller space on the road where stalls can only operate between 6 p.m. and midnight, part of a move to "create order and return the footpath to the people", City Hall said.
But many vendors set up their stalls as usual.
"We will not move today," Natta Potina, 43, who has been a street hawker for more than 30 years. "Our stalls are an important part of this street's identity."
"Officials can do whatever they need to do," said Kotchapan Fungfuang, 50, who has run a clothing stall in the area for more than 20 years.
City Hall sent officials to Khaosan road, taking down names and taking photographs of stalls that resisting the new rules.
"We do not want confrontation so we will take down names of those who do not cooperate and we will charge them accordingly," Pornlert Penpas, assistant to the director of Phra Nakhon district where Khaosan road is located, told Reuters.
"Those who failed to cooperate will be banned from doing business here in the future."
Representatives of the street vendors on Tuesday asked Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to intervene.
"Independent stalls helped develop this street over the last 30 years until it became an important Bangkok landmark," Yada Pornpetrumpa, the president of Khaosan road street vendor association, told Reuters.
"Now, the government won't even listen to us."
The regulations are part of wider effort by the military government, which came to power in a 2014 coup, to impose order in the city, famous for its bars and raunchy night life.
Many tourists visiting Khaosan said they do not understand why new rules were needed.
"This street is known for the night market and that's why the backpackers come. So it won't be the same," said Eve Caffrey, 23, a tourist from Ireland.
"The shops are part of the atmosphere and attraction of the street," said Koen Nevins, 49, a tourist from Belgium. "It would be a shame if all this is gone."
(Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat)