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Ho Chi Minh City levies small fines on coconut scammers

Thursday, May 28, 2015, 17:59 GMT+7
Ho Chi Minh City levies small fines on coconut scammers

The Ho Chi Minh City administration has begun cracking down on dishonest coconut vendors who target foreign tourists in the downtown area, but the fines slapped on them are not as big as you might imagine. Five such sellers had been summoned to work with the Ben Thanh Ward administration and subjected to a fine of VND150,000 (US$6.89) each, Nguyen Quang Dieu, deputy chairman of the ward administered by District 1, confirmed to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Tuesday. These vendors showed signs of “forcing tourists to buy coconuts at cut-throat prices,” according to the official. The cash fine is especially small should one remember that these scammers charged foreign tourists as much as VND100,000 ($4.59) for a coconut, which normally costs only VND30,000 ($1.4) at most, as revealed by a recent undercover Tuoi Tre mission. One of the scammers then revealed to Tuoi Tre he could make up to VND700,000 ($32.62) a day, and sometimes even more. The Ben Thanh Ward administration inspected the coconut vendors following the Tuoi Tre report as officials found these five most suspicious, Dieu said. All five hail from the southern province of Tien Giang, and they admitted to mostly preying on tourists around the Reunification Palace, the official added. The vendors signed a written guarantee not to repeat their scams, Dieu said, adding that no such scam coconut sellers are now seen in the area. “We have assigned forces to regularly check the area in front of the Reunification Palace to stop these scammers,” he said. “The administration of District 1 has also suggested strengthening checks on streets such as Nguyen Du, Nam Ky Khoi Nghia and Huyen Tran Cong Chua.” These streets are where around 30 of the coconut scammers mostly ‘attacked’ foreign tourists. These coconut peddlers were found willing to charge foreign tourists cut-throat prices, or invite them to pose for a photograph with their ‘ganh’ – the bamboo yokes with baskets at each end used to carry the fruits around – and demand up to VND200,000 ($10) for it. They also hunted for victims at other famous attractions in the downtown area such as the Ho Chi Minh Museum and War Remnants Museum. Huynh Gia Giang, chairman of Ward 6 of District 3, said the area is now free from the coconut scammers after Tuoi Tre rang the alarm bell on the issue. “However, we still maintain regular patrols to ensure safety for tourists,” he added.

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