Chatuchak vendors block traffic to protest rent hike

Bangkok (The Nation/ANN) - A group of about 300 vendors from Bangkok's Chatuchak Market yesterday afternoon blocked the outbound lane of Phaholyothin Road in protest against the policy of the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) to collect a stall rent of 3,562 baht (US$115) per month.

As of press time, the protest was ongoing and three policemen were injured after angry demonstrators reportedly threw bottles at them.

Deputy Transport Minister Chatt Kuldiloke insisted the fee was fair and that those who failed to register for the stalls by March 13 would be regarded as having given up their right to rent.

After the SRT governor invited the vendors of the famous weekend market's 27 project areas to sign stall rental contracts of 3,562 baht per month yesterday morning, many vendors, led by Sanguan Damrongthai, president of the Chatuchak Market Co-operative, gathered at the market's clock tower and then moved to the third entrance before blocking the road, causing a severe traffic jam as motorists could use only one lane.

The group called for the SRT to honour its reported promises to them, while urging more vendors to join them and gathering signatures on an appeal to be submitted to the prime minister.

Metropolitan Police Area 2 deputy chief Charoen Srisasalak instructed Bang Sue police officers to accommodate motorists and keep order in the area, while a team of 100 crowd-control police officers were on standby. Bang Sue superintendent Pol Colonel Somsak Wimanrat sent 80 police to the area and negotiated with the protesters until they opened the road to make two lanes available for motorists.

Meanwhile, Chat said the new rent was reasonable and the hike was necessary or the market would not have sufficient funds to keep up maintenance. He said that, if the vendors failed to register to renew their contracts with the SRT by March 13, they would be regarded

as having given up their right to rent the stalls. The SRT would then find new vendors to do business.

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