Doan Ngoc Hai seeks full authorization to keep Saigon sidewalks clean

The leader behind the famous ‘sidewalk clearing’ drive in Saigon wants to be fully authorized to resume the campaign

Doan Ngoc Hai, deputy chairman of District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.

Doan Ngoc Hai, a deputy chairman of District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, has sought to be given full authorization to resume his signature ‘sidewalk clearing’ campaign.

Initiated earlier this year, Hai’s campaign had effectively made streets across District 1 clean and clear, and inspired other neighborhoods in Ho Chi Minh City to follow suit, until it suddenly ended in mid-March.

With Hai no longer taking to the street on his own to directly instruct officers to fine wrongly parked cars or remove vendors or establishments that occupied the sidewalks, disorder quickly returned to many streets in District 1.

“I have committed to make sidewalks in District 1 completely get rid of being illegally occupied, so I need to be fully authorized to penalize any violators, even public officials,” Hai said at a meeting with Ho Chi Minh City chairman Nguyen Thanh Phong on Friday.

“It is the only way to make District 1 better.”

Doan Ngoc Hai asks a traffic police officer to handle a state-owned car for illegal parking in Ho Chi Minh City.
Doan Ngoc Hai asks a traffic police officer to handle a state-owned car for illegal parking in Ho Chi Minh City.

The ‘sidewalk reclamation’ campaign leader pulled no punches when he briefed the city’s leader of how ugly pavements across his district currently look.

“Street vendors and drinking establishments freely occupy the sidewalks, while cars, wearing both public and private license plates, would park anywhere they wish,” he said.

One big eatery had strictly followed the rule to keep the sidewalk in front of its premises clean and clear, but shortly after the crackdowns ended, “they are now even occupying the space in front of the headquarters of the Cau Ong Lanh Wad administration.”

“There used to be no street vendors on Dong Khoi, but now they are everywhere on the street,” Hai said. “And the mess created by street peddlers on Nguyen Hue walking street is beyond description.”

Hai said some interest groups are to blame for the situation, with some ward officials and urban security officers show sign of corruption and do not fulfill their duty properly.

The District 1 deputy head said it is not difficult to resolve the problem, what matter is authorities are resolute to do so or not.

Hai said the main reason is that he no longer directly leads the campaign, so “all of the ten wards of District 1 effectively do nothing and wait for order from their bosses.”

Hai suggested removing all of the paid parking lots that occupy the sidewalks and “immediately handle wrongly parked cars or sidewalk occupying establishments”, instead of developing a detailed action plan.

Doan Ngoc Hai speaks at the meeting.

In response, chairman Phong appreciated District 1 efforts in keeping the sidewalk clean, but said Hai had spoken out his complaints in a wrong place.

“These issues should be discussed in a different meeting between the District 1 Party Committee and the municipal administration,” he said.

“At the meeting today, what we should discuss is  how to prevent the sidewalks from being occupied.

“This meeting is not a forum where you can complain issues like ‘I want to do this job but why am I assigned another task?’.”

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