Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Closure of Sungei Road "Thieves Market" or "Robinson Petang"

Update 25 Aug 2017: In Memory Of Sungei Road Market, Here Are 25 Wonderfully Passive-Aggressive Gifts For 25 Politicians

Two Singaporeans Buy Stuff From Sungei Market, Dedicate Them To Politicians Who Allowed Sungei Market To Close.

Clearly, the closure of Sungei Road Thieves Market has affected people in different ways. The elderly obviously have some strong feelings about the place, especially those whose livelihoods depend on the market and treat it as an icon. However, they might not have the impetus to actually express their feelings – it remains the burden of the young to remember the market and actually do something about it.

And two young Singaporeans have thought up of the perfect way to encapsulate their unhappiness, via the magic of the internet and just pure saltiness.

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Today marks the last day of the Sungei Road Thieves Market. A well known market that has been part of a facade of Singapore, it will be gone like so many other historical landmarks in Singapore. And it will go without so much of a fanfare.

This market had been around since the 1930s, and had survived World War II. And yet, it cannot survive Singapore's constant need to build condos. After all, what is more important than to provide expensive housing for Singaporeans and foreigners alike. While Parliament debated about the merits of keeping one house intact, because it was the birthplace of Singapore, allegedly, the sad thing is that no Parliament debate about the merits of keeping Sungei Road intact, or indeed the National Library at Stamford Road intact, among other things, had ever taken place.

Singapore keeps demolishing its history in its inane desire to modernise. Every historical building have shelf life. There is no historical building safe from the bulldozers, unless of course, the historical building is located at Oxley Road. Then the government will do all it can to preserve, including defying the wish of its founding father.


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Let this elderly woman be your last memory of Sungei Road Thieves’ Market
We'd like to think that they can survive anywhere if they can survive Sungei Road
The market will breathed its last and brought to a close

The Sungei Road Thieves’ Market, which began in the 1930s and survived World War II, will make way for residential and commercial development. On July 10, 2017, the market will breathe its last and be brought to a close.

So far, only 29 vendors have taken up the National Environment Agency’s offer of more than 40 lock-up stalls set aside at Golden Mile Food Centre and Chinatown Market.

Plus, a move to Golden Mile Tower is also on the cards.

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End of a chapter for Sungei Road flea market
Photo: Raj Nadarajan/TODAY
Sungei Road's flea market to be closed on Jul 10

(Tang Kong Yuen, almost 90, has been at Chinatown Complex for two weeks, but has yet to make a sale. He is a first-generation hawker and one of 11 original permit holders who qualify for a rent-free stall for a year. Photo: Raj Nadarajan/TODAY)

(Mr Hew Beong Fah, in his 70s, has been at Chinatown Complex for a month, previously hawking at Sungei Road for 30 years. Photo: Raj Nadarajan/TODAY)

(Mr Chin Kim Bon still goes back to sell things at Sungei Road Market despite having gotten a stall at Beach Road’s army market. Photo: Raj Nadarajan/TODAY)

(Mr Chin Kim Bon at his new stall at Beach Road's army market. Photo: Raj Nadarajan/TODAY)

(Mr George Tang, 64, has been hawking at the Thieves Market for 16 years. Will move to Chinatown Complex when the Thieves Market closes. Photo: Raj Nadarajan/TODAY)

(Ms Teng Soon Heng, 79, and younger sister Ms Chan Ah Ling, 69, at the Sungei Road market. They have not made any plans to move to a new stall. Photo: Raj Nadarajan/TODAY)

Operating lock-up stalls at hawker centres at subsidised rents sounded like a lifeline to keep their trades afloat. At least that was what some former Sungei Road flea market hawkers had counted on.

In preparing for this new chapter in their lives, many printed gleaming name cards with their new addresses & forked out hundreds for display cabinets and signage. At least one also had a Facebook page set up.

But for this pioneering group who moved into their new trading locations between 2 weeks and a month ago, the fresh start that they had hoped for has yet to materialise. Still, some hope that come Monday (Jul 10) when the curtain finally descends on the colourful bargain paradise, the centrepiece between Jalan Besar & Rochor Canal Road for just a decade shy of a century, their business might pick up once more.

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Road to a new future for Sungei Road flea market
Mr Tan Meow Teck says he does not have the money to run a lock-up stall, with rental fees & various costs involved.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Madam Oh Luan Keow with her cart in Sungei Road. She sews the blouse & trouser sets at home in Jalan Besar.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Visitors at the Sungei Road market yesterday. Ever since news broke of its impending closure, visitor footfall at the market has significantly increased. ST PHOTO: LEE SI XUAN

Vendor Chin Kim Bon, 70, says he has hardly made any money at his new stall in Golden Mile Food Centre (above), which sells trinkets, water-colour paintings, antique sculptures and vintage gadgets. This is in stark contrast to the $1,000 or so he used to rake in at Sungei Road market monthly.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

It survived World War II, but Singapore's oldest hawking zone is set to close on Tuesday after operating since the 1930s. Heritage & Community Correspondent Melody Zaccheus looks at the paths taken by Sungei Road flea market's vendors as the site winds down.

Meanwhile, the market's association, as well as the Save Sungei Road Market group, are exploring alternatives such as renting a private carpark for vendors to sell their wares.

Sungei Road market vendor Tan Meow Teck, 61, said he will take a wait-&-see approach to his path ahead once the market closes for good from Tuesday.

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Sungei Road stalwarts eye future beyond flea market's closure
Sungei Road's flea market to be closed on Jul 10. (Photo: Kenneth Lim)
The street vendors at Sungei Road flea market plying their trade. (Photo: Kenneth Lim)

Chin Kin Bon hawking his wares at the soon-to-be-closed Sungei Road flea market. (Photo: Kenneth Lim)
Chin Kin Bon (left) and Lim Teck Nam (right) are close friends from their time at the Sungei Road flea market. (Photo: Kenneth Lim)

Every morning, 70-yr-old Chin Kin Bon lays out his wares - porcelain bowls, vases, bead bracelets - at Sungei Road flea market. He's been doing so for more than 20 years, sometimes with his wife by his side.

But for him & others who have made the flea market - also known as Thieves' Market - home, it will soon be the end of the road. By mid-July, the buzz of the city-state's largest & oldest flea market will be no longer as the space makes way for residential developments.

"Having been here for so long, of course there's a sense of loss,” Mr Chin said in Mandarin. “And of course it's a good place, since you can do business without paying rent."

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7 things you ought to know about Sungei Road market before it disappears
Singapore's oldest flea market in Sungei Road will operate its last day on July 10, 2017 after 8 decades of existence

Sungei Road flea market is also known as Robinson Petang

Once notoriously known as "Thieves Market" as stolen items were reportedly sold there, the open-air market will make way for residential and commercial developments.

Used shoes, dolls, toys and accessorities were among the things sold in this photo taken in 2001

The market was already reduced to half its size in 2011 to enable the construction of Jalan Besar MRT station

It's official - Singapore's oldest flea market in Sungei Road will close its final chapter on July 10, after 8 decades of existence.

Once notoriously known as "Thieves Market" as stolen items were reportedly sold there, the open-air market will make way for residential and commercial developments. In fact, the market was already reduced to half its size in 2011 to enable the construction of Jalan Besar MRT station.

Popular with tourists, foreign workers & locals especially on weekends, it offers bric-a-brac ranging from household items to jewellery and electronic items.

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Govt's response to Sungei Road Market petition 'deeply disappointing': Petitioners
Sungei Road Flea Market. (Photo: Howard Law)

Government officers meeting Sungei Road market hawkers. (Photo: National Environment Agency)

Sungei Road market vendor talking to Government officers. (Photo: NEA)

Officers from Govt agencies sharing information with Sungei Road market vendors on the channels through which they can continue their trade. (Foto: NEA)

2 groups behind a petition asking for the relocation of the Sungei Road flea market have expressed "deepest disappointment" with answers provided by Senior Minister of State for the Environment & Water Resources Amy Khor in Parliament on Monday (Jul 3).

Nominated Member of Parliament Kok Heng Leun submitted a petition seeking an alternative location for the iconic market, popularly referred to as Thieves' Market, in Parliament on Monday - a week before it is set to close on Jul 10.

Dr Khor said the Government has engaged about 200 vendors at the Sungei Road flea market, with more than 60 of them receiving some form of assistance, such as being allocated stalls at hawker centres. All users of the Sungei Road Hawking Zone (SRHZ) “who are in need of help and have come forward are being assisted," she added.

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mothershipsg Thieves Market @ Sungei Road

From tomorrow onwards, the closest thing we’ll have to Chatuchak and Jonker Street in Singapore will be gone for good.

Sungei Road Thieves Market, more than 80 years old, was a trinket haven and a treasure hunter’s paradise. As the last free hawking zone in Singapore, it attracted the homeless and elderly, many of whom would bring together an assortment of old or abandoned items for sale. And while the market was off the radar for the regular Singaporean, frequent customers included migrant workers and bargain hunters looking for long-lost items.

If you missed out on the last weekend at Sungei Road Thieves Market, too bad for you.

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Sungei Road market moving to Golden Mile Tower on July 15, 2017
The market will be renamed Golden Mile Tower Sungei Market

Sungei Road Thieves’ Market fans, all is not lost with the closing of the original flea market in Singapore.

Making the rounds offline is news that an alternative location has been secured for the market, thanks to the efforts of the Association For The Recycling of Second Hand Goods chairman Koh Eng Khoon.

The relaunch will take place on July 15 on sixth floor of Golden Mile Tower’s carpark, opening from 12pm to 7:30pm,

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The Sungei Road Thieves Market might be at the end of its historical run today. But fear not, the Sungei Road Market association have secured a new site for the vendors to operate similar to Sungei Road, the sixth floor of Golden Mile Tower's carpark.

According to association chairman Koh Eng Khoon, about 100 of 200 vendors have expressed interest in moving there. The market has also been renamed Golden Mile Tower Sungei Market, he added. Mr Koh had been trying to find a place for all the Sungei Road vendors to peddle their wares for the past two years. The new site is set for a relaunch on Saturday, but more details will only be revealed by the association on Monday evening.

Vendor registration for a spot at the new site will take place on Wednesday. Daily rent will cost $5 for association members and $10 for non-members. A security deposit of $100 is required, along with a one-year commitment. Vendors have also been told that the deposit will be confiscated if littering, the sale of illegal merchandise or fighting takes place. Mr Koh said the monthly rental for the carpark space costs $10,000. Sungei Road may be gone soon, but the vendors have another place to carry on their business.

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Joint Statement by Association For The Recycling of Second Hand Goods & Save Sungei Road Market Campaign
Parliamentary response to Sungei Road Market Petition Deeply Disappointing

The Association of the Recycling of Second Hand Goods and the Save Sungei Road Market Campaign jointly express our deepest disappointment with the parliamentary answers provided by the Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, Dr Amy Khor on 3 July in response to the submitted petition asking for the relocation of Sungei Road Market. The Government have not addressed the issues, including financial destitution, faced by these elderly vendors as a result of their decision to close the market.  Separately, we express our appreciation for NMP Kok Heng Leun for submitting the petition in the parliament. We also thank Ms. Denise Phua and Dr Er Lee Bee Wah for filing parliamentary questions on the issue.

It is apparent that the gaps between what the Government perceives and expressed as adequate, and what the vendors of the SRM really requested for, are poles apart. None of the“various assistance options” presented to vendors by NEA is practical or sustainable. Only 27 vendors out of 200 have taken up lock-up stalls at hawker centres like Golden Mile Food Centre and Chinatown Market because the majority are unable to afford the rent and the initial setup costs.

SRM vendors' main call is for a collective relocation of the market to preserve the unique branding and history of the Sungei Road Market. Dispersing them to hawker centres effectively causes the vendors to lose the ‘cluster effect’ of having many businesses from the same industry together in close proximity. Reasons for closure -  disamenities and risk to public health - are best tackled by community engagement with the stakeholders involved. Such tensions, which are best captured in the Not My Backyard mentality, abound in urban and high density living. Banning one party is not the solution.

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Painting the faces behind Singapore’s Thieves’ Market
NSF and artist Brendan Mayle Kor has completed three portraits of elderly vendors at the Sungei Road Thieves’ Market over the past few months and is currently working on the fourth painting in the series. —TODAY pic
NSF & artist Brendan Mayle Kor has completed 3 portraits of elderly vendors at the Sungei Road Thieves’ Market over the past few months and is currently working on the fourth painting in the series. —TODAY pic

Over the last few months, 20-year-old Brendan Mayle Kor has been spending his Saturday afternoons studying the faces and mannerisms of the elderly vendors at Sungei Road Thieves’ Market very closely, looking for every line and crease that tells a story of their lives.

He then lays out a canvas and gets to work with his acrylics. The fulltime national serviceman and former Nanyang Junior College student is on a mission to document the Thieves’ Market and the people behind it ahead of its impending closure on July 10 to make way for future residential development.

Located between Jalan Besar and Rochor Canal Road, Singapore’s oldest and largest flea market — which sprung up in the 1930s — used to have a colourful history and a reputation as a spot for trading smuggled and stolen wares.

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Closure of Sungei Road market: One loyal customer's lament
Closure of Sungei Road market: One loyal customer's lament
Mr Erei Chua shops for parts from a vendor at the Sungei Road Thieves' Market Foto: Low Youjin / TODAY

Books, files, gadgets & assorted bits of electronics lie scattered across Mr Erei Chua's room above a row of shophouses in French Road. There's barely any room to stand without stepping on something. But this is where the 19-yr-old hones his engineering skills - by tinkering with spare parts bought from the Sungei Road Thieves' Market, which will close for good on Jul 10.

"I mess with a lot of electronics and hardware," said the former engineering student from Nanyang Polytechnic. "And Sungei Road is one of the few places where you can get them at junk prices."

Started in the 1930s, the market came to acquire a reputation as the place to trade stolen, smuggled or illegal goods. The "Thieves' Market" name soon stuck.

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An iconic flea market older than Singapore itself is closing down

Older than Singapore itself, the city-state's iconic Sungei Road Thieves Market, which has operated daily for more than 80 years, will pack up its wares for a final time on Monday.
The two-lane, open-air flea market is a throwback to yesteryear and is known for its kooky finds and unique second hand bric-a-brac including cassette tapes, used clothes, Buddhist amulets and large gemstone rings purported to have healing properties.

Home to some 200 stalls, the market drew its name from an old adage that if someone's possessions were stolen, he or she could likely find them among the stack of wares on offer at the market. The site is being cleared to make way for a new metro station and residential development.

Exactly when the market first opened is unclear, but historical records from the 1930s showed that a small hawking zone had sprung up near the Rochor River, where Sungei Road (Malay for "River Road") was located.

Rag-and-bone hawkers continued to populate the area through the decades, picking up unwanted or unused goods from houses and rubbish centres and displaying them at the market on the following days. Vendors did not need to pay rent at the market, but turned up in the early morning and reserved their spots with a mat. Prices were cheap and no refunds were allowed. Over the years, the Thieves Market experienced various setbacks, with officials trying to relocate stall owners to more urbanized sites but to no avail, as they kept returning to set up shop.

Now, with the impending site closure, many older stall owners are worried for their livelihoods, with one of them telling dpa she had plied her trade at the market for four decades. The Chinese stall owner, who declined to be identified, sat Friday in a rattan chair looking at a petition booth, which was set up earlier this year seeking to keep the market alive. "People keep signing but nothing is happening," she said in broken Malay. "I don't know where I'm going to go after this."

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Sungei Road "Thieves Market" or "Robinson Petang"
Street hawkers peddling their wares at Sungei Road

Sungei Road (Chinese: 双溪路; literally River Road) is a road in Singapore situated between Serangoon Road and Jalan Besar and runs along the Rochor Canal. The area around Sungei Road was formerly the homes of affluent Europeans and Asians, where many ornately designed buildings were built in its place. From the 1930s to the present, the road has been synonymous with the Thieves' Market, the largest and oldest flea market in Singapore, where the locals can hunt for old bric-a-brac or second-hand goods, as a cheap replacement for one's faulty or lost item. It's also the place where the well-known Sungei Road Laksa, a local spicy noodle soup originated. The market will be permanently closed on 10 July 2017 for "future residential development use".

Since the 1930s, Sungei Road and its surrounding roads became a flea market better known as the Thieves' Market, because all sorts of second-hand merchandise as well as contraband goods were sold here. The peddlers may change from day to day and there were no receipts, so refunds are impossible. Until the British Army withdrawal in the late 1960s, it was also a place to buy army merchandise like uniforms, army gear and other army surplus, possibly looted earlier from British military stores. The open air market soon acquired a bad reputation as the major dissemination venue for stolen goods that would last to the present day. If an item was "lost" recently, people can try their luck in looking for it at the Thieves' Market, and buying it back from the sellers who will always claim no knowledge of its source.

In the early 1970s, opium dens used to be common in the Sungei Road area. The drugs were popular with workers looking for a cheap way to ease the hardship of the day's toil. The opium addicts were mainly poor, elderly people from working-class groups. In early 1991, a spate of fires destroyed more than 20 shophouses along Sungei Road. Most of the century-old shophouses, crumbling with age, had become potential fire hazards for its residents. The first fire incident left two people injured and 61 homeless. As a result, many of its buildings were torn down for safety reason and its inhabitants relocated in later years.

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Closure of Sungei Road "Thieves Market" or "Robinson Petang"
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