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Ho Chi Minh City street hawkers
street hawker in Ho Chi Minh City - captured by Thy Lai

Ho Chi Minh City street hawkers

Ho Chi Minh City street hawkers get their own marketplaces for trade activity

Some public areas in town will be assigned for the hawkers according to an announcement by the government authorities in Ho Chi Minh City. The implementation of this plan shall begin at the end of April 2016th. All hawkers from District 1 in Ho Chi Minh City will then need to go for doing their business in fixed certain roads.

street hawker in Ho Chi Minh City

street hawker in Ho Chi Minh City – captured by Thy Lai

The selected areas for this pilot project are located in Ben Nghe Ward. It involves the sidewalk of the road Nguyen Van Chiem and the crossing of the streets Hai Ba Trung and Pham Ngoc Thach. A third planned location is the road Ton Duc Thang in Bach Dang Harbour Park at the former Saigon Industrial and Commercial Bank. These areas have sufficiently broad sidewalks. This ensures that traders and passersby not impede the traffic and are not endangered by it. The trade shall be organized at this model in specified time frame according to the requirements of the people. Initially are planned two market times daily. The first time window for the markets of the hawkers shall be from 06:00 to 08:00 in the morning and the second from 11:00 to 13:00 at noon.

Mr. Tran The Thuan who is the chairman of the District 1 in Ho Chi Minh City said thereto: “This model will help to act against the loss of a beautiful street image by the uncontrolled appearance of hawkers. To concentrate the hawkers mainly in certain areas shall also create new jobs and it increases the safety in the town.”

The sellers should therefore also be involved into this model. They will by this way be trained at food hygiene, general hygiene, waste management and more communication skills. The ripping off of customers by the street vendors will be more difficult in addition. The reason is the variety of sellers for same products at a concentrated location. It is expected that all major products will be sold on based list prices.

According to the People’s Committee of District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City exists there currently a special priority for hawkers from this area at the municipality. Primarily it is valid for those hawkers in difficult economic and family situations. Hawkers from other regions of the city are temporarily excluded from registration for this model.

 hawkers are a part of Vietnamese culture

The sights of hawkers or street vendors with their old bicycles or the yoke on the shoulders are very familiar for the people in Vietnam. Since long time this belongs for the Hanoiese and Saigonese equally to the daily streetscape.

For example is unconsciously accepted by every Vietnamese the existence of coffee shops and breakfast restaurants on the sidewalks doesn’t matter they are executive officers or common people or even celebrities. In fact there are among these restaurants many which are exists for decades and are operated by people in the second or even third generation. Many of the Vietnamese who have left the country often reminds of the images of street vendors and they are returning to Vietnam to brush up almost forgotten memories.

The yoke which is used by many of the hawkers to transport their goods has its origins at the countryside. No one can remember when it was seen for the first time in the cities. However it is now an indispensable component in the big cities. Any attempt to remove the hawkers from the sidewalks in the cities will be therefore, doomed to failure.

The image of the simple business model of hawkers is not only firmly anchored in the memory of the people here but rather also leaves a lasting impression on foreign visitors of Vietnamese cities. Street vendors make a decisive contribution to bridge the distance between visitors and the strange city as well to be closer to each other. Wearing of the yoke is associated by many foreign visitors as inseparable from Vietnam and is therefore indispensable for the Vietnamese tourism and its reputation throughout the world.

 hawkers and the civilized city

Despite the long-standing cultural tradition of hawkers in Vietnam the dark side of their businesses should be mentioned. Hawkers block often the walkways so that passersby have to switch on streets and thus expose themselves to the dangers of road traffic. Besides the beautiful images of street vendors there are also those of sleazy and unhygienic subjects which contribute to the loss of aesthetic streetscape. Unfortunately some of the street vendors also operating on illegal businesses such as drug trafficking. In recent years the authorities have in many places prohibited the business of hawkers but the situation was not significantly changed due to lack of alternative places. The aim was to create a civilized, clean, beautiful and modern atmosphere in the town. The way of implementation however was unfortunately exaggerated and led rather to unsatisfactory results. It became downright like hunting on hawkers which often escalated into violence. Hawkers were thrown to the ground, bound at hands and foots and arrested through government security forces as well their goods were confiscated. This depressed numerous passersby and locals which were eyewitnesses such dramatic actions.

The problem for the state authorities is that the hawkers increasingly represent the impoverishment of society and thus leave a bad image of Vietnam in the world arise. The hawkers belong to the lowest class of society and all these people want to survive and earn their daily living expenses. This seemed to be for the city state and the authority leaders of the city since years an insoluble problem. With the new pilot project now both problems should be solved. By providing specified locations in firstly the hawkers should be disappear from the cityscape. Secondly for the traders should retain the possibility of acquiring their livelihood. Planned is this measure currently only for the district 1 in Ho Chi Minh City and the future will show whether the project will become successful or not. There are perhaps soon such marketplaces throughout the city but this depends on the success of the project which will be decisively determined by the willingness of the hawkers.

25.04.2016: Silvia Huynh – ITI-HOLIDAY

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