Captain Sidewalk claims new victim in Saigon

By Duy Tran   August 17, 2017 | 02:49 am PT
Mayor Doan Ngoc Hai says a district department that has been managing a parking lot in the city heart has overstepped the mark.

One of Saigon's biggest parking lots has been closed since Thursday morning after the man in charge of the city's sidewalk cleanup campaign decided that there was a management "conflict of interest".

District 1’s urban management department has been managing the lot for the past 10 years, but the district's vice chairman Doan Ngoc Hai checked the lot behind the Opera House in downtown Saigon on Wednesday and ordered it closed.

The license for the parking lot, which can hold hundreds of cars and motorbikes, has expired since July, Hai said. He also suggested management should be leased off to an independent firm.

“The department’s job is to check and fine people for streetside violations. It shouldn't be allowed to run a parking lot,” Hai said.

During the inspection on Thursday, he also ticketed 15 cars for illegal parking, and some restaurants were fined VND5 million ($220) for spilling out onto the sidewalks.

The inspection was just another day in the life of the district’s sidewalk cleanup campaign, which started in February and resumed last week after a four-month hiatus.

Authorities initially put up barriers and deployed police to stop motorbikes from driving on the sidewalks. They also towed vehicles, including government and foreign diplomatic cars, and destroyed constructions that spilled out onto the street, some of which had been built by five-star hotels.

The project has been widely applauded by locals, but it has also raised concerns for being too extreme, and street vendors have been seen crying and yelling when police seize their food stands.

However, Hai maintains he will take every measure necessary to turn District 1, the heart of the city, into a “Little Singapore”.

At a meeting earlier this month to prepare for the campaign's comeback, he asked the city to give him “carte blanche to punish anyone that breaks the rules, even officials”.

Some people are opposed to the campaign, and argue that the streets and sidewalks are the only places they can park on.

Hai has been quick to dismiss their claims, saying there is “abundant” space in parking lots at shopping malls and hotels, as well as along more than 120 streets, where they can park.

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