Saigon's Captain Sidewalk withdraws resignation letter

By Thien Ngon   May 15, 2018 | 06:22 pm PT
Saigon's Captain Sidewalk withdraws resignation letter
Doan Ngoc Hai, the official behind Saigon's drastic sidewalk cleanup campaign. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen
Doan Ngoc Hai decided to stay after his superiors encouraged him to continue contributing to the city.

The man behind Ho Chi Minh City's sidewalk cleanup campaign in District 1 has asked to withdraw a resignation he tendered four months ago amid the failing campaign, saying he still feels the need to continue working.

In a letter to the city and district leaders, Doan Ngoc Hai, vice chairman of District 1, said he had changed his mind after being encouraged and persuaded by his superiors.

"I feel that I still need to continue working to dedicate my abilities to serving the people, contribute my small part to building the city and fulfill my duty as a Party member," Hai, 48, said.

He said he is willing to take on any mission assigned to him.

Hai, who was put in charge of District 1's urban management in 2016, started a campaign to clean up the district's sidewalks in early 2017 with a pledge to turn it into a “Little Singapore.”

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.

The district's leaders however asked him to step down as the de facto frontman of the campaign in October last year and replaced his daily patrols with a task force which would only deal with sidewalk invasion after receiving tip-offs.

Following this decision, the district's sidewalks were quickly taken over by cars and shops again, prompting Hai to submit a letter of resignation last January as he claimed to have failed to keep his promise to the public.

In the resignation letter, Hai said 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.

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