Hanoi – As Vietnam attempts to clean up its streets by limiting street vendors, some downtown patrons questioned on Wednesday how much of an improvement the new laws will make. As of July 1, police in downtown Hanoi started handing out fines to street vendors operating on 62 streets and other designated areas.
“The ban on street vendors in downtown Hanoi has proved to be very effective,” said Nguyen Thi Nhu Mai, deputy director of the Department of Industry and Trade of Hanoi, one week after police started handing out fines to illegal vendors.
“Basically, all the street vendors have been notified about the ban and they all abide by the ban. However, there are a small number of street vendors staying and dodging the ban.”
With the streets of Hanoi notoriously crowded, the ban has been in development since the beginning of the year.
“Hanoi is becoming a modern and civilized city,” said Ho Quoc Khanh, director of the Trade Management Unit under the Hanoi Trade Department in a previous interview. “It’s trade activities will be more civilized and modern. Thus, we cannot accept a city with sellers and buyers operating on the streets and on pavements.”
Tu Nguyen, a travel agent who works in the capital city’s historic old quarter, questioned how effective the ban will be in the long run. While a slew of extra police officers were brought in for the initial kick-off, she doesn’t expect them to stick around. Since local police make deals with the street vendors, she’s expecting most of those street vendors to come back.
That’s good news for Phong Ti Nguyen and Xuyen Ti Nguyen, two local vendors. The two women bicycle 30 kilometres into town to sell fans and bracelets to tourists, earning a couple of dollars a day. They admitted to being afraid of the police and have been keeping a low profile since the ban came into place.
Bob Young, a tourist from Seattle, is also hoping that the ban won’t be too effective. Having visited Hanoi a few times, he said the street vendors are part of the city’s charm.
“It’s part of the culture, it’s Vietnam,” he said. “The vendors aren’t bothering anybody, it’s the vehicles, the traffic.”
Unfortunately for Young, regulations limiting parking to clear off the city’s sidewalks may not help. Tu Nguyen noted that as motorcycles can’t park on the sidewalks anymore, they are moving onto the streets, creating even more chaos on the already crowded roads. She remains skeptical about how effective the new regulations will be.
“People will always try to escape the law,” she said.