Ban on Street Food

I am quoted in the New York Times for my views on street food here (


Daily Configurations and Reconfigurations of Space in a Bangkok Soi: The Case of Inthamara

I recently attended the 5th World International Studies Conference at the National Taiwan University on April 1st-3rd. My paper was:

Daily Configurations and Reconfigurations of Space in a Bangkok Soi: The Case of Inthamara


The rhythm of daily life in Inthamara, a soi linking the major thoroughfares of Viphawadi-Rangsit and Phaholyothin, begins with the perambulations of monks, who generate good karma (making space temporarily sacred) which is then distributed. The space returns to being social, public space which may then become commercial or private space as shophouse residents and passers-by enact their activities on the pavements. The use of space may be reconfigured many times during the day, depending on seasonal and temporal factors which may to some extent be predicted. The nature of the space at any particular time affects social relations among the residents of Inthamara, whether they are long-term or short-term in nature. It also affects their interactions with the representatives of the state: the street-sweepers increase the amount of space available for different types of use, while police and military challenge those who are using public space for their own purposes. The military coup of 2014 has been followed by attempts at gentrification by state agencies on a unilateral basis and this has acted as an additional, external force for change along Inthamara, joining the arrival of retail chains competing with old-fashioned, family-based local retailers and the construction of condominium projects to have residents attracted by the proximity to the new public transport networks. Using an ethnographic approach to research along Inthamara, this paper explores the nature of change along a Bangkok soi as the residential neighbourhood gradually accommodates the internal and external pressures that globalization and urbanization have caused. Distinctive local characteristics have been eroded but still exist.

Keywords: Bangkok, change, everyday living, space, urban living

Creative Industries and Industrial Policy in Korea and Southeast Asia

I attended the Bangkok University Communication Arts International Conference Creative Industries in Asia: Innovating within Constraints, 1st-2nd July 2016, which was succesfully held here in Bangkok. More details on the conference are available here.

My paper was entitled “Creative Industries and Industrial Policy in Korea and Southeast Asia,” and here is the:


One of the most important means by which the Republic of Korea (ROK) was able to escape from the Middle Income Trap was through the creation and implementation of the Hallyu, which was a wave of inter-related forms of cultural production supported and promoted by government. Hallyu was successful, at least in part, because of the freedom of expression won by the Korean people in the struggle for democracy. Its various forms, including popular music, television, dance, food, cosmetics and other consumer goods can be complementary in nature and were supported by various incentives, subsidies and other forms of industrial policy. Some of these policies have been recreated for application in other countries of East and Southeast Asia, while others have yet to be evaluated or adopted. In other cases, policies have been employed which have actively constrained creativity, sometimes for justifiable state-level reasons and sometimes not. This paper outlines the different forms of industrial policy that have been employed to affect creative industries, inspired by the Korean example and using Southeast Asia as the primary area of investigation. Implications are drawn from the analysis as to which kinds of policies are likely to be successful in which kinds of policy regimes and political systems. Social, cultural and religious constraints to the expression of the creative industries in the region are also discussed and possibilities of change considered.

Keywords: creative industries, hallyu, industrial policy, Korea, Southeast Asia

The full-text paper has been submitted and the proceedings are being prepared for publication even as we speak.

Inheriting the City, Taipei 2016



I’m back now from the Inheriting the City Urban Studies Conference held at Taipei, April 2016 at the impressive Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Centre, as shown above. The conference was on the third floor below the main memorial floor.

The conference was successfully held and there were more than one hundred participants, who gave papers amidst the paintings and calligraphy on the various exhibition walls.


My own paper was entitled “The Struggle for Control of Bangkok’s Streets since the Coup of 2014:”


The military coup in Thailand in 2014 brought to power a regime that put into practice a series of policies which had never before been officially promoted but which had been suspected for some years. After moves against migrant workers which saw a quarter of a million Cambodian workers fleeing across the border, the junta launched crackdowns on street vendors, taxi drivers and providers of services at several seaside tourist destinations, many of whom were criminalized in political discourse with the collaboration of much of the mass media. Subsequently, a number of popular markets have been closed in Bangkok and restrictions imposed, even though it is apparent that people express demand for the goods and services provided on the street in a city in which upscale retail centres and malls, as well as condominium projects, continue to be announced and opened on a regular basis. Using the weapons of the weak, street vendors and other operators disappear when required and then seek to reappear, perhaps in a different guise, when conditions improve. The still unannounced policies of the junta seem to wish to create not a disneyfied but still working version of street hawking as in Singapore or the limited street theatre of Penang but an urban environment in which no trace of the poor or working classes may be seen. The political discourse of the junta harkens back to a non-existent past in which all Thai people behaved decorously, in unity and obedience to authority. This paper investigates changes in urban environments that have taken place since the coup, focusing on Bangkok, and interrogates the extent to which it is possible to enforce an imaginary urban environment in a market economy and with the opposition of most of the people.

Keywords: Bangkok, conflict, street vending, urban environment, weapons of the weak


A couple of dozen protestors were calling for an independent Taiwan (ROC), free from Chinese domination (it took me too long to get my camera out of my pocket to get a better shot and I was taking my luggage to the station).


The Changing of the Guard in Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Centre (on the hour, every hour) is an extraordinary sight. The guards themselves stand stock still for one hour in between times.

Bangkok and the Floods of 2011: Urban Governance and the Struggle for Democratization



Chintraruck, Alin and John Walsh, “Bangkok and the Floods of 2011: Urban Governance and the Struggle for Democratization,” in Michelle Ann Miller and Michael Douglass, eds., Disaster Governance in Asia (Springer, 2016), pp.195-209, available at:


The 2011 floods in Thailand took more than 700 lives and was one of the world’s three most severe economic disasters of that year. The incoming Pheu Thai administration, under PM Yingluck Shinawatra, faced its first significant emergency and was hamstrung by the limited ability of government to act. There was little coordination between government efforts and those of the opposition-controlled Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and the army, which has long taken a role in disaster relief. Contentiously, provincial and peripheral areas were sacrificed to preserve central districts of Bangkok. Popular blame has fallen on the technocrat managers of the Royal Irrigation Department (RID), which manages the dams, as well as other unaccountable agencies and institutions. This has lent popular support to Pheu Thai’s strategy of broadening and deepening the scope of the democratically-elected government vis-à-vis unaccountable and unelected agencies. Decentralisation of water policy projects is part of the plan to increase the numbers of legitimate political actors and the Committee for Water and Flood Management will advise the RID and require any decisions made to be transparent and accountable. Plans to introduce a Ministry of Water will see the disaster mitigation infrastructure overseen by government agencies. The city of Bangkok will be at the heart of this struggle, since many of the large infrastructure projects will be located there and, as a primate city, it would be unthinkable for many elements of society for it to be subject to what is considered to be outside control.

Housing in Bangkok: The Spatial and Lifestyle Reconfigurations of a Rapidly Industrializing Society


Walsh, John, “Housing in Bangkok: The Spatial and Lifestyle Reconfigurations of a Rapidly Industrializing Society,” in Dhruba Kumar Gautam and Yuvaraja Seegodu Eshwarappa, eds., Transforming Management System for Innovation, Development and Governance (Kathmandu: Samjhana Publication Pvt. Ltd., 2015), pp.273-87.


This paper uses the housing sector of Bangkok as a way of assessing changes in lifestyles caused by a variety of changes related to industrialization and modernization. These changes are most evident in the capital city but are now also spreading to secondary and provincial cities in different parts of the country. Improvements in transportation infrastructure has made those lifestyle and housing changes possible and have led to much smaller urban households with different consumption patterns. Such changes can be challenging for all members of society to accept. As with all forms of change driven by capitalism, creative destruction (of social relations and social capital, among other phenomena) leads to the creation of winners as well as losers. Prospects for the future are highlighted and the spatial reconfigurations within the country are evaluated.

Business Strategies Used by Micro-SMEs in a Bangkok Street Market


Now published: Walsh, John, “Business Strategies Used by Micro-SMEs in a Bangkok Street Market,” Journal of Enterprising Communities, Vol.8, No.2 (2014), pp.147-58, doi: 10.1108/JEC-02-2013-0001.


Purpose – This paper aims to report on research aimed at determining the nature of business strategies employed by micro small and medium-sized street vendors in a local market area in Bangkok.

Design/methodology/approach – The research consisted of a longitudinal study of the defined research site, involving ethnographic interaction and observation mediated by the use of a research diary.

Findings – The research found that the use of business strategies was quite limited and varied in line with the street vendor’s relationships with other actors and business practitioners.

Research limitations/implications – The research was deliberately limited in terms of space and is ongoing in terms of time. Additional areas of Bangkok will also be studied for comparative purposes.

Practical implications – Street vending and markets offer valuable opportunities for informal employment and for part-time employment to provide additional income generation for the working poor. Vendors also help sustain a decent standard of living for migrant workers.

Social implications – Street vending of this sort reflects the nature of underlying changes in urban life: the building of new mass transit routes, the opening of condominiums in place of shop houses and the flourishing of the frozen food industry. Many street vendors are mobile and flexible but not all of them.

Originality/value – This paper contributes to the literature on street vending and urban micro-entrepreneurs and will be of interest not just to scholars of business but also in planning for social policy and urban management.