Captain Sidewalk told to tread carefully around diplomatic cars as cleanup campaign continues

By Duy Tran   September 21, 2017 | 07:54 pm PT
Doan Ngoc Hai showed a rare moment of leniency on Thursday and simply issued a warning to the driver of a diplomatic car.

Since resuming in early August, Saigon's sidewalk campaign has been indiscriminately clearing restaurants, constructions and vehicles that occupy District 1's sidewalks.

However, Doan Ngoc Hai, the district's vice chairman and the man behind the campaign, has started to show some leniency.

District 1's inspection team, personally led by Hai, returned for another round of inspections on Thursday afternoon. The team soon discovered a 7-seater car bearing a diplomatic license plate parked on the sidewalk outside the Panamanian Consulate General on Le Thanh Ton Street.

The driver, who showed up 15 minutes later, argued that diplomatic cars are exempt from the rule and are allowed to park on the sidewalks.


A diplomatic car on the sidewalk outside the Panamanian Consulate General. Photo by VnExpress/Duy Tran.

Hai disagreed with the driver and reaffirmed that vehicles are not allowed to park on the sidewalks. “Consulate employees should not see parking on the sidewalk as a privilege,” he said. He also cited examples he had seen of diplomatic cars being towed away by police when he was abroad.

However, unlike the original campaign earlier this year that saw three diplomatic cars fined, no fine was issued this time.

“District 1's leaders have instructed me to be cautious about dealing with diplomatic cars from consulates in the area, so I'll only remind you of the rule and ask you to remove the vehicle from the sidewalk this time,” he said.

Hai also made a rare exception last Sunday when a car was found parked on a sidewalk without a driver. The driver, who showed up about 15 minutes later, was only fined instead of having his car towed after claiming he had been attending a family death anniversary.

But in most cases, the team is punishing violators as usual.

On Thursday afternoon three drivers were fined for parking on the sidewalk despite their protests that they had only stopped for three minutes and did not intend to break the rules.

“Drivers entering District 1 must follow the rules instead of parking wherever they want. If you drive like that then you'd better move to U Minh Forest,” he said, not accepting their excuses.


A driver argues with Hai after being fined for parking on the sidewalk. Photo by VnExpress/Duy Tran.

Upon spotting large piles of rubble and garbage on the sidewalks around the Vo Van Kiet-Ham Nghi intersection, Hai asked public workers to help remove the mess by the next day. All expenses would be paid for by the owners of the nearby building, he said.

The inspection team also fined multiple restaurants for occupying the sidewalks around the Nguyen Thai Binh-Yersin intersection. Local ward leaders were then tasked with monitoring the cleanup there.

More seriously, Hai fined a motorbike parking lot on Phan Chau Trinh Street for overcharging customers and operating over its capacity after being tipped off by two female students. They claimed the parking lot's operators had charged them up to VND10,000 ($0.5) for parking and that a group of men had threatened them when they refused, prompting Hai to have police officers escort the two women home.

Since August, the inspection team has fined hundreds of drivers, restaurants and vendors for occupying the sidewalks. Hai has also asked to have two ward leaders demoted for allowing the sidewalks to be retaken by repeat offenders in their wards.

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