Ho Chi Minh City police are investigating a gang accused of using violence and threats of violence to extort money from street vendors near a public park.
The investigation started following an article in the Thanh Nien newspaper that exposed operations of the gang believed to be led by Do Manh Hoa, 50. The report happened after some victims of the gang sought help from the paper.
According to the vendors, Hoa has instructed gang members to collect VND300,000 per month from anyone who ran small businesses around the Hoang Van Thu Park in Tan Binh District. Those who resisted paying would be beaten up by the gangsters.
The gang has been operating in the park since 2010.
On September 9, Tan Binh District police arrested Le Khac Cong, a 28-year-old gang member and a native of Thanh Hoa Province, as he was collecting money from some coconut, sweet soup and water vendors on the sidewalks outside the park.
Cong told police he used to work as a xe om (motorbike taxi) driver until he joined the gang in 2010. He was charged with collecting money and keeping watch so as to inform vendors in case the police showed up to prevent them from encroaching on the sidewalks.
If any vendor refused to pay the “protection” money, Cong would have Hoa assign gangsters to beat him up.
According to the police, Hoa and his wife – two Hai Phong City natives – used to be coconut vendors near the Hoang Van Thu Park until they turned to the “protection” business in 2010.
Police said Hoa usually incited street vendors to resist police officers and used cameras to capture scenes featuring the fights between the vendors and the officers when police tried to clear the sidewalks.
Some vendors reported to Thanh Nien they had been brutally beaten up by gang members when they failed to pay their “fee” because they could not do business on rainy days.
Most of the vendors around the park are immigrants who come to HCMC to eke out a living.