Photo credit: Youth.SG/Grace Neo

The last days of The Thieves Market

In the name of commercialisation, Singapore's oldest flea market is closing down for good.

Grace Neo

Published: 5 July 2017, 12:00 AM

It all started with stolen goods. In fact, the founder of today’s widely known Koufu had his humble beginnings as an illegal fruit hawker in The Thieves Market, before moving on to set up the food chain.

However, many stayed on. Located off the main streets of Sungei Road, it is sort of a hush-hush site for trade.



This rent-free flea market has stood in its glory for over eight decades to date.



Entering The Thieves Market, you will find nothing similar to handcrafted jewellery or hipster drinks in the usual art markets.



Instead, it is as if you were entering a time capsule, bringing every patron back to the early days of Singapore.



In here, hawkers sell second-hand (and stolen) goods to a bustling crowd of people from all walks of lives.




Fishing rods, old stoves, typewriters, pirated CDs and the list goes on. You name it, chances are they probably have it.



There is order in the messiness, although it does make me wonder what is being sold and what’s not.  But one thing for sure – they can be dirt cheap, as low as S$2-$3 per item.



But the days of The Thieves Market are numbered.



In 2011, the market was reduced to half of its size to make way for the Sungei Road MRT Station. Next Monday (July 10) puts an end to Singapore’s oldest flea market.



Concerns were raised, petitions were made and efforts were proposed.



Yet alternative solutions do not seem to appeal to the majority of hawkers, who are elderly folks in their 60s to 80s.



It is obvious that The Thieves Market is more than just a pasar malam.



To many hawkers, it is ground zero which provides them their bread and butter; their lepak zone; their history.




It is ironic how Singapore’s culture and heritage is glorified and cherished, yet we are tearing down an organic cultural site – with our own hands.

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