Saigon’s Captain Sidewalk steps down after cleanup campaign fails

By Duy Tran   January 8, 2018 | 03:13 am PT
Saigon’s Captain Sidewalk steps down after cleanup campaign fails
Doan Ngoc Hai during a sidewalk patrol in Saigon's District 1. Photo by VnExpress/Duy Tran
In his resignation letter, Doan Ngoc Hai said his campaign collided with businesses that had million-dollar interests on the sidewalks.

The main man behind the drive to clean up Ho Chi Minh City's sidewalks has tendered his resignation after failing to fulfill his promise.

Vice chairman of HCMC's District 1 Doan Ngoc Hai submitted his letter of resignation on Monday.

“I have failed to keep my promise to the public,” he said.

But the Department of Internal Affairs, which is in charge of processing such resignations, has yet to receive Hai's letter, said the municipal chief of staff Vo Van Hoan who had only heard the news from local media.

The department and District 1 authorities will first "discuss the matter with Hai to understand his intentions and reasons [for resigning] to come up with an appropriate solution," Hoan added. 

Hai, who was put in charge of the central district in 2016, started the sidewalk campaign in early 2017 with a pledge to turn it into a “Little Singapore”.

“I will retire if it fails,” he said.

His team put up barriers and deployed police officers to stop motorbikes from driving on the sidewalks. During the crackdown, vehicles, including government and foreign diplomatic cars, were towed, and invasive constructions that spilled out onto the street, some of which belonged to five-star hotels, were dismantled.

Hai received death threats during his campaign, but also gained widespread public support, except from street vendors who were seen crying and yelling after police seized their food stands.

Hai said in his letter that his campaign had collided with businesses that had million-dollar interests on the sidewalks, and a large number of officials backing them.

The mission needed the support of the entire political system, which he did not receive, he said.

When Hai returned to the streets in August after a four-month hiatus, he asked for "full power" to execute the campaign effectively.

Hai said that as a normal resident, he hopes to be able to think of more practical solutions for the city’s sidewalks that will not affect poor street vendors.

His resignation comes three months after his district asked him to step down as the de facto frontman of the campaign. It replaced his daily patrols with a task force which will only deal with sidewalk invasion after receiving tip-offs.

Images acquired by VnExpress showed that since the decision, the downtown sidewalks have been quickly taken over by cars and shops.

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