Tomorrow is an official holiday for Vietnam’s Independence Day. Though I was expecting a lot of police, I thought it would be the guys in tan uniforms, the traffic police. I saw just a couple today. Instead, while I was in District 1, I saw many of the green uniformed police blazing their sirens on their pickup trucks up and down the roads. It seems that they are arresting a lot of young men, many still boys, and bringing them to the police stations.
Who were these boys? I have no clue since large crowds were gathering due to the sirens. I saw this happen on Bui Vien street. As I headed to Nguyen Trai, I saw two more police pickups in that area with young men/boys in back.
One of the Vietnamese says that the police are just cleaning the streets in preparation for tomorrow. I am not sure but this was the first time I saw police very active in over two years. Remember when they used to shut down nightclubs at 11 PM and made house or apartment checks? The police seem to be starting up on their ‘social evil’ checks again.
The rumor mill says that they, the police, will be very strict as the country gets closer to the General Assembly in 2011. There is a bit of talk that an economic collapse is imminent in Vietnam before the next General Assembly with the housing bubble bursting around December/January. The stock market lost about 20% of it’s value in one month yet nobody dared use the word collapse. When people here realize, finally, that the stock market will not recover, most will, finally, get out. Unfortunately, many people here put too much faith on the stock market and never learned the lessons from the last crash. Not with just stocks but with houses, land, etc. Anything which can make “easy” money.
As a friend told me, these stockholders will have no choice but to sell their houses to pay off their “stock” loans. Unfortunately, a word I am using a lot here, they will not be the only person trying to sell their overpriced home equities. There will be many people across the country but with nobody willing to buy the property, not even cash-starved foreigners as in the past. This means many stockholders not only will not be able to pay for their stock loans, they will not be able to pay for their home loans, real estate loans, etc.
Many of you already know how many of our Vietnamese friends are in this same exact situation. I was nearly placed in the same position when my ex asked me to take out a home loan for $150,000 US with HSBC. IF I had done that, I would be screwed right now because I am pretty sure that my ex would used the house as collateral for another stock loan, a double burden loan as I call it. These double burden loans are just too common in Vietnam.
How does this relate to the police today and even during this entire Traffic Safety Month? As my friend says, when the economy collapses, as many expect will happen, there will be chaos. The police will need to maintain control which will be tough since they literally let the reigns loose the last couple of years. They are now tightening it with Expats and foreigners with the work permits, temporary resident cards and now driver’s licenses. Authorities will now focus on their own people and most campaigns seem to start around September with enforcements in December before the New Year.
Saigon might be changing again.