HANOI (AFP) — More than 100 drivers of three-wheeled motor cyclos, many of them invalid veterans of the ‘American war,’ Monday protested against a looming ban of their vehicles in communist Vietnam’s cities.
The men in Hanoi said a government prohibition from July 1 of the modified motorcycles — which are now commonly hired to transport bulky goods through traffic-choked urban streets — will deprive them of their livelihoods.
“We laid wreaths at the war martyrs’ monument this morning,” said Le Thanh Tam, 59, a driver supplementing a 60-dollar state war pension he receives after losing his left leg in a southern battlefield in 1969.
“I’ve had this vehicle for four years, helping people transport furniture when they move house. I earn 50,000 to 100,000 dong (2.9 to 5.8 dollars) a day. My wife and two children are unemployed … How can we live now?”
Police kept a close eye on the drivers — many of whom were dressed in olive army garb and soldiers’ pith helmets — and who had parked their vehicles in a row on the edge of a busy street outside a Hanoi government office.
“We need them (the government) to create new jobs for us, or to allow us to keep the vehicles and to register them,” Tam told AFP.
Authorities in Hanoi and the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City have announced a July 1 ban on all modified three- and four-wheeled vehicles, aiming to reduce traffic jams, air pollution and road accidents.
Hanoi has about 2,000 of the three-wheelers, according to traffic police figures quoted by the Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper, and Ho Chi Minh City has over 20,000, the Thanh Nien (Young People) daily reported.
Authorities in Hanoi also plan to ban from July 1 the city’s street vendors — mostly rural workers who now hawk produce and consumer goods on foot or bicyle — from almost 100 major streets and public places.
Both bans were announced early this year but delayed amid public criticism.