by Thanh Hai
A huge foreigner has stirred public imagination after being featured on VOVgiaothong.vn, the Voice of Viet Nam's traffic web site.
The website released a short clip of the man acting as a traffic policeman in a one-way street. It shows a real scene at the intersection of Tran Binh Trong and Tran Nhan Tong streets in Ha Noi on July 2.
"You are entering a one-way street. Please, turn back. Thank you!" the foreigner, whose name is George Heydlaulff, says calmly in Vietnamese to violators.
When more and more vehicles go against the traffic as rush hour hit a peak, he resorts to stronger measures – cutting ahead of motorbikes or physically pulling them back, stopping even the bullheaded.
While Heydlaulff receives support from many passers-by, who also start lecturing violators, it is noticeable that there is no sign of traffic police at the scene.
The foreigner tells the video reporter that he became a reluctant traffic policeman after getting fed up with many people violating traffic regulations at an intersection on the route he uses every day to take his child to school. That morning, one irate driver takes a swing at the big man - and connects. No traffic policemen is around to handle the situation.
"I have reported the continual breaking of the one-way rule several times to appropriate authorities, but the intersection's problem have been left alone," says the English teacher, who promises to do it again whenever he sees traffic violator.
Lieutenant-Colonel Pham Hong Thai, head of Traffic Police Unit 4 in charge of the area, admits it is not hard to see people crossing against a red light or driving in the wrong lane at the intersection, especially in the absence of police.
Colonel Nguyen Duy Ngoc, head of the Ha Noi's Traffic Police Department, says the foreigner's intention is good, but notes that it carries no official support.
He says Heydlaulff, like other citizens, has no responsibility or right to guide traffic, except in emergency cases. He adds that the volunteer traffic cop may have even caused traffic accidents.
However, Ngoc is man enough to admit that the foreigner should be honoured for his sense of community in a bad traffic situation that drivers continued to make worse.
Meanwhile, the clip has received thousands of feedbacks from viewers. For most of them, Heydlaulff is a hero. Many Vietnamese say they feel ashamed for the bad behaviour of locals in traffic.
"I was moved to tears after watching the clip," says viewer Do Hoang Hiep. "I really appreciate the foreigner's heroic deed."
Many claim that weak traffic-awareness education and low fines are the reason for endless violations on the road.
Some even suggest that traffic violators should not only receive a financial penalty, but also be forced join in a public work project.
"I once saw a foreign backpacker patiently waiting in the pouring rain for a traffic light to turn green. Following laws is seemingly in their blood and bones. I wish all Vietnamese would learn to do the same," says another viewer, Nguyen Trinh.
The Ministry of Transport reports that lack of awareness was the main reason for the 11,000 traffic accidents that killed 12,000 people and injured more than 9,000 others in Viet Nam each year.
"The foreigner may have acted a little crazy, but he has taught the whole nation a good lesson about following traffic laws," says director and actor Trong Trinh.
"People's awareness can't often be changed overnight," he adds, "But I believe that many of us have learned from his lesson."
While Vietnamese traffic police, who are paid to do their jobs, fail to control the wild traffic in the capital city, an unpaid non-national may have provided the inspiration to solve the chaos. — VNS