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Varawut Silpa-archa Urges Public to Halt Donations to Bangkok Beggars Amid Rising Numbers and High Earnings

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A woman gives money to a beggar at the Victory Monument in Bangkok. Photo: Apichit Jinakul

Social Development and Human Security Minister Varawut Silpa-archa has issued a heartfelt plea for people to cease giving money to beggars, as their numbers continue to swell across Bangkok. Alarmingly, some of these individuals are reportedly pocketing nearly 100,000 baht each month. Addressing this pressing issue on Tuesday, Mr. Varawut shared insights into his ministry’s vigorous efforts to manage the beggar situation, underscoring the crucial role played by various collaborating agencies, including the Royal Thai Police (RTP) and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA).

The ministry employs a meticulous strategy, conducting sweeps five times a month to apprehend beggars populating the city’s streets. Foreign beggars who are caught face deportation to their home countries, whereas Thai beggars are provided shelter at homes for the destitute, run by the ministry. These homes not only offer refuge but also career training and job placement support, intending to encourage a shift away from street begging.

Despite these endeavors, many beggars revert to the streets after their release, drawn back by the substantial earnings that far exceed the penalty fines. The Beggar Control Act of BE 2559 (2016) stipulates that begging is punishable by up to one month in prison and/or a fine of up to 10,000 baht.

“Much of their income streams in from tourists and the general public,” Mr. Varawut remarked, noting that modern beggars often enhance their appeal by keeping children or pets by their side. This sympathetic tactic tugs at the heartstrings and opens wallets, significantly boosting their daily haul.

Stringent checks are conducted whenever a beggar is found with a child, Mr. Varawut stressed. Efforts are made to verify if they are indeed related. If no family link is found, legal actions ensue to address this exploitative behavior.

Reflecting on the past decade, Mr. Varawut stated that around 7,000 beggars have been apprehended, with 30% being foreigners. “I implore the public to refrain from giving to beggars as this inadvertently fuels the cycle, causing their numbers to multiply,” he urged passionately.

Addressing speculation about beggars’ income, Mr. Varawut mentioned there is no official confirmation, but it’s evident that a significant portion pours in from foreign visitors, especially during peak tourist seasons. Staggeringly, some beggars reportedly rake in nearly 100,000 baht per month, highlighting the lucrative nature of street begging.

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