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Hawkers sink own boats to dodge authorities’ punishment in Ha Long Bay

Saturday, January 05, 2019, 16:18 GMT+7
Hawkers sink own boats to dodge authorities’ punishment in Ha Long Bay
Hawker boat sunk by its owners is seen in Ha Long Bay, northern Vietnam, January 2019. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Authorities at Vietnam’s tourist magnet of Ha Long Bay are grappling with the persistent issue of cracking down on on-water hawking there, as a number of peddlers deliberately sank their own boats at the sight of regulators in order to avoid punishment.

The peddlers immediately used the practice to forestall a possible financial penalty and seizure of their boats, Le Trong Viet – head of the local patrol group – told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper Friday.

Hawker boats ply across the country’s UNESCO World Heritage Site and draw abreast of tourist boats in order to sell food and souvenirs.

The hawkers were usually undeterred by repeated attempts from tourist boat staff to shoo them away, even by force.

Each time they were refused a chance to make money, they developed hatred which might be expressed by stones hurled to the tourist boat windows, recalled Vu Van Thoa – captain of a cruise ship at Ha Long Bay.

Hawker vessels have been banned from operation for over a year at the area because the sellers gouged and coerced visitors into purchase – actions that the government feared would be prejudicial to the bay’s tourism.

A hawker boat (center) is seen in Ha Long Bay, northern Vietnam in 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Viet said hawker boats, mostly old and wooden, have a hole at their bottom so that water fills them immediately when the plug is removed at the tug of an attached sting if the owners spot the authorities.

In that case the vessels will become submerged if the onboard water pump is simultaneously turned off, he said.

Owners are willing to abandon these derelict, unlicensed boats and buy a different one for their business.

This is a source of the nagging problem that the government has been facing and it is not the only one.

Many peddlers with sunken boats were uneducated and sometimes illiterate and they refused to cooperate with regulators or even jumped to water with their children as a way to put pressure on the officials, said Nguyen Van Thin – head of the river police department in Quang Ninh Province, where Ha Long Bay is located.

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Thai Xuan / Tuoi Tre News

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