Saigon’s sidewalk campaign resumes after months-long break

Police and their assistants were traveling around Saigon's central District 1 on May 19 cleaning up sidewalks and fining cars parked on the roadway, bringing back the drastic cleanup campaign that has lost steam for many months now.

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Police seize shoes from a shop for invading the sidewalk in Saigon's District 1 on Saturday morning. Photo by VnExpress/Duy Tran
The inspection team from Pham Ngu Lao Ward issued tickets to more than 10 cars for illegally parking on the sidewalks during a two-hour patrol in the morning. They also confiscated food stands and bags of merchandise from streetside fashion shops.

Le Tan Dat, the ward chairman, said the cleanup is going to last until the end of the year to "transform" the city's central area.

The sidewalk patrol was the first since October last year, when Doan Ngoc Hai, the district's vice chairman, stepped down from the massive cleanup campaign that he initiated in early 2017. During the crackdown, his team put up barriers to stop motorbikes from driving on the sidewalks. Many vehicles, including government and foreign diplomatic cars, were towed, and invasive constructions that spilled out onto the street, some of which belonged to five-star hotels, were dismantled.

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Police issue tickets for cars parked illegally on Tran Hung Dao Street on Saturday morning. Photo by VnExpress/Duy Tran

Hai gained widespread public support, except from street vendors who were seen crying and yelling after police seized their food stands. The district's leaders however asked him to step down and replaced his daily patrols with a task force which would only deal with sidewalk invasion after receiving tip-offs.

Following this decision, the district's sidewalks were quickly taken over by cars and shops again, prompting Hai to submit a letter of resignation last January as he claimed to have failed to keep his promise to the public.

In the resignation letter, Hai said that his campaign had collided with businesses that had million-dollar interests on the sidewalks, and a large number of officials backing them. The mission needed the support of the entire political system, which he did not receive, he said.

But in a move that has received public applauses, Hai has withdrawn the resignation, saying he still felt the need to continue contributing to the city, local media reported this week. He said he is willing to take any mission now.


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