By Nguyễn Hằng
The recent death of Trần Minh Hoàng, a nine-year-old boy whose neck was slashed by a long, sharp roofing steel plate loaded onto a makeshift behicle has sparked sorrow and anger - not only from the victims’ relatives but also from many residents of the capital.
It happened last Friday afternoon while the boy riding his bike along Tân Mai Street and suddenly crashed into a stopped cyclo (called xích lô in Vietnamese) carrying roofing steel plates. According to witnesses, the boy was talking with his friends and did not see the cyclo. He died of severe blood loss after being taken to Bạch Mai Hospital. Local police remanded the cyclo driver in custody for further investigation.
After the heart-breaking story was widely reported by local media and shared by social networking sites, thousands of city-dwellers said their thoughts were with the boy’s relatives.
However, many others also called authorised agencies to consider leniency for the cyclo-driver, who indirectly caused the boy’s death by stopping his cyclo with no warning and violating regulations that ban three-wheeled vehicles as well as cyclos transporting bulky goods in Hà Nội. They explained that the cyclo driver was a poor man living in a rented room and was the breadwinner for his three-member family.
The call reflected sympathy with the indigent cyclo driver and stirred up a debate about whether attenuated charges might not encourage other poor people to continue life-threatening transportation of bulky loads.
Will our law be consistently enforced? How many innocent children will be cut to death by sharp steel plates? How many parents willl have to suffer the loss of their children?
In an article for the VTC online newspaper, Senior Lt. Col. Nguyễn Văn Quỹ, a former Hà Nội Police Department officer, said no one could use poverty as an excuse to break the law and in this case the violator should be strictly punished.
Quỹ said in the long term, local agencies should consider offering the man another job to help him earn a living by other means than dangerous transportation of goods.
Bùi Quang Nghiêm, deputy head of HCM City’s Bar Association, told Tuổi trẻ (Youth) newspaper that although the poor cyclo driver did not directly cause the boy’s death, he still had to take responsibility.
Hà Minh Nguyệt, a 29-year-old civil servant in Hà Nội, said, “Being poor does not mean you can do something risking the lives of others. It’s unacceptable and unpardonable,” she added.
She said she was always fearful when driving on streets with three-wheel vehicles and cyclos carrying roofing steel plates, big sharp glass plates or long steel bars.
“The man should get the punishment he deserved without attenuation,” she said.
Since 2013, the city administration has banned three-wheel vehicles and cyclos transporting bulky goods city-wide. However, violations are still recorded.
Statistics from the capital’s transport department show that during the first nine months of this year, traffic police have dealt with over 570 violations related to three-wheel vehicles and cyclos.
Under article 6 of a government decree issued in 2013, a three-wheel vehicle or cyclo transporting bulky goods will receive a fine of VNĐ200,000-400,000 ($9-18).
Vũ Văn Hoài, head of the traffic accident investigation team of the Hà Nội Police Department said the current sanction seems too light to deter violators.
According to Quỹ, authorised agencies must require all shops selling roofing steel plates to commit to safe transportation of their goods by trucks during specific hours set by the city administration.
Following the boy’s tragic death, police have informed the city administration that they would crack down and impound the three-wheel vehicles or cyclo drivers who violate regulations.
Until a long-term solution is implemented, strict punishment of the cyclo driver is a must, if only to deter others. Personally, I also sympathize with the poor, but I would prefer a well-organised society where law is consistently enforced to avoid painful outcomes such as the death of a nine-year-old boy whose only sin was riding his bicycle.— VNS