The vendor and the street: The use and management of public spaces in Bangkok

Paisarn Tepwongsirirat, University of Pennsylvania


The concept of use and management of public space by Thai street vendors refers equally to their struggle over public space and the State's attempts to control this activity. Although similar problems are faced by vendors worldwide, the setting in Thailand colors this conflict in a unique way. There is a dynamic interplay between the vendor, the Thai public (the clients) and the Thai authorities (the government and the police). These interactions take places on both human-to-human and human-to-environment levels. For this dissertation, vendors, clients and authorities were interviewed and observed using Silom Street in Bangkok as a model site. Other sites in Thailand and other countries provided a basis for comparison. Specific factors affect the use and management of space by Thai vendors. Factors that had a basis in human interaction included: the class system in Thai Society with its patron-client principles; the Thai concept of family and extended family; That Buddhism and its morality; Thai cultural norms for interpersonal behavior; the dynamics of face-to-face interactions; the niche that Thai vendors occupy as a alternate to corporate merchandising; and the vendors as symbols of nostalgia to the Thai people. Similarly, there were factors affecting use and management of space that had a basis in how humans interact with their environment, including: the concept of public space and Thai public space and State control of this; the role of territoriality on how vending sites are selected and maintained; the built environment and the Thai built environment; the effect of gentrification on the world of the vendor; Thai government views on public space and vendors; how the Thai people react to these policies; and how the vendors provide meaning of place to the Thai people. Finally, some concepts are proposed to improve the situation of the Thai street vendor, in the areas of public health and the built environment. The success of these changes depends on establishing a better understanding and degree of cooperation between the street vendor, the Thai people and the Thai government.

Subject Area

Urban planning|Area planning & development

Recommended Citation

Tepwongsirirat, Paisarn, "The vendor and the street: The use and management of public spaces in Bangkok" (2005). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3165758.