Street barber eats humble pie for threatening to kill Saigon's Captain Sidewalk

By Duy Tran   December 8, 2017 | 09:04 pm PT
The disgruntled man says he was resentful of a cleanup campaign that exacted a heavy toll on his fellow street vendors.

Police in Ho Chi Minh City on Friday summoned a street barber and questioned him for allegedly sending death threats to the official who has apparently antagonized many by spearheading a radical sidewalk cleanup campaign since February.

Nguyen Phu Thach admitted to having sent multiple text messages to Doan Ngoc Hai, the vice chairman of District 1, threatening to shoot him and kill his entire family, the police said Friday. (Hai made public his phone number in August so the public could report any sidewalk encroachment directly to him.)

Thach said he was resentful of Hai's cleanup campaign, saying it had badly affected his fellow street vendors. 


Nguyen Phu Thach at the police station. Photo by VnExpress/Duy Tran

"I'm not so well educated and didn't thoroughly understand the situation so I behaved rudely," said Thach, who lives the northern province of Hai Duong. "Now that I've realized my wrongdoings, I'd like to apologize to Hai and hope he would forgive me."

Thach said his family is poor. He is also the breadwinner, according to Phap Luat (Law) newspaper. The police

Further investigations would be underway, the police said.

Hai told VnExpress he would accept Thach's apology. He also said he hoped Thach would undergo compulsory therapy as the man has shown signs of delusion.

But Thach was not the only source of such death threats. In September, Hai asked the police to investigate multiple messages and phone calls from at least six numbers threatening to kill him.

Hai started the sidewalk cleanup campaign in early February to take back District 1's sidewalks for their original purpose. He has pledged to turn the district into a “Little Singapore.”

His team has put up barriers and deployed police to stop motorbikes from driving on the sidewalks. They have also been towing vehicles, including government and foreign diplomatic cars, and destroying any invasive constructions that spill out onto the street, some of which belong to five-star hotels.

However, street vendors across the district have been left devastated, with many seen crying and yelling when police or soldiers seize their food stands. 

City leaders eventually stepped in last month, with chairman Nguyen Thanh Phong disparaging Hai's campaign as being inhumane. The city has instead set up a new task force that will only react when complaints are made, essentially undercutting Hai's authority.

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