Saigon apologizes for Captain Sidewalk's urban snobbery
Doan Ngoc Hai asked drivers in the city to follow the rules or go and live in U Minh, a poor rural community 250 miles away.
“Drivers entering District 1 must follow the rules. If you are going to drive with no manners, go and live in the jungle in U Minh.”
Now does that sound like a slip of the tongue or obvious discrimination?
Authorities in Ho Chi Minh’s central district have insisted that it was just a slip of the tongue that meant no disrespect, but following a flood of complaints, the district was forced to send a letter of apology to Ca Mau Province, home to U Minh District, on Thursday.
The controversial statement was made by Doan Ngoc Hai, vice chairman of Ho Chi Minh City's District 1, while he was admonishing three car drivers for parking on the sidewalk on September 21.
Hai, the man behind the city’s sidewalk campaign, has become well-known for his bold announcements and no-nonsense approach to the cleanup project, which grants no privileges to officials or rich people.
But his reference to U Minh, a poor coastal district which has the largest area of mangrove forests in Vietnam, may have overstepped the mark.
Given the fact that the terrain in U Minh is mostly floodplains where roads are poorly developed, many people said the statement was insensitive, and authorities in Ca Mau itself demanded an explanation.
District 1 said in the apology letter that Hai had not been making a comparison or trying to deride the region.
“The words came out spontaneously in a moment of bad temper and caused a misunderstanding,” it said.
It said the incident was “regretful” and that the district will learn from the experience.
Doan Ngoc Hai himself has said that he meant no offense to the people of U Minh.