If you saw this child beggar would you give her money?

It always makes me sad to see something like this on the streets of Bangkok. I’m always in a dilema as to whether to give the beggars any money.  I was once at a BTS station waiting for a friend and within a period of about 20 minutes I saw many people put money in a beggar’s cup. Quite often 20 Baht but sometimes coins. Every now and then the beggar would empty the cup and put the money in a purse. I estimated that he had collected about 200 Baht within just a short time. Many people who work hard all day don’t get much more than that.

There was another incident I spotted while I was walking to Pantip Plaza via Pratunam. Someone who looked like he was homeless was changing his shirt by the side of the road. A Chinese tourist who just got off a bus was trying to sneak a picture of this guy. He was spotted and the homeless guy got angry and chased him off. I didn’t think much of it at the time but an hour or so later I was walking back the same way and spotted the same homeless guy sitting by the side of the road begging. The only difference is that this time he had only one arm!

The problem with begging in Thailand is that it is often organized by gangs. Children are often kidnapped or trafficked over the border from Cambodia. They are then forced to beg and make a certain amount of money each day. They don’t get to keep this money as they have to give it to the gang leader. Some of the kids already have deformities but there has been some reports that these were done on purpose in order to attract more sympathy. It is all very well organized. They are dropped off in the morning in key locations and someone comes round later in the day to pick them up.

If you saw this child begging in Bangkok would you give her money?

I threw this question out on Twitter late last night. In my opinion you should never give money to child beggars as you are supporting human trafficking. If you insist then give food or a toy.  Here are a few of the replies:

RT @cotimichele: No. It never seems they actually get the money. In my 2 yrs I’ve never given $ to st beggars. Would rather donate 2 charity.
RT @iks77: Very hard if not impossible to distinguish between real poor people and the begging mafia
RT @Bangkoking: No, because I assume she’s put there by a gang.
RT @velvetjack: Mostly agree, i try to carry some soil milk in my car for that case, also know a friend who even carry small dolls.
RT @MetaHeavies: @Friends_Intl’s #Childsafe campaign gives clear rationales for why it can cause more harm than good
RT @MindfulAarti:  Agree…giving begging children money keeps them on the street and at risk of even more abuse and exploitation.
RT @Vexape:  I always give food & drink, not cash. BBQ Pork and water. And sit with them whilst they eat it.
RT @pagrev: No, I think it only encourages more begging.
RT @smiley_yas: As a tourist in Phuket I’ve often wondered whether to give to beggars. Also, buying leis from children?! Feel bad either way.
RT @tarabkk: Agreed. I keep snacks & candy in my car. Once gave Tootsie Rolls at Asoke and kids were all smiles.
RT @leoviotti:  I don’t ever give money to no one. Food and stuff (clothes, shoes, etc), yes. Lesson learned in Brazil… :-\

27 thoughts on “If you saw this child beggar would you give her money?

  • July 5, 2012 at 7:38 am
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    Not only from Cambodia but also from Burma particularly in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Also many adult beggars are reportedly said that they are ex-members of Khmer Rouge coming to Thailand from Cambodia. Be careful!

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  • July 5, 2012 at 8:01 am
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    This is a tough question for me. I was a drunk during my twenties and ended up homeless and begging on the streets. I benefited from the charity of other people. I wasted the money they gave me on alcohol, but the fact that they were willing to help me meant something significant to me. It reminded me that there were good people out there, and it gave me to desire to be one of them.

    I find it incredibly uncomfortable to walk past anyone who is begging on the streets. As you rightly point out here though, by giving money to these children I could be making their situation worse. It is tough and heartbreaking. I would be more likely to give to westerner begging on the streets of Bangkok (something that I’ve seen) than a child. At least with the westerner I’ve a good idea about how he ended up there.

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    • July 5, 2012 at 8:11 am
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      Thanks for your comment. I know at the end of the day money is better for a beggar, but is food just as welcome? I have had food/drinks thrown back at me before. But, I still prefer to offer food or drinks.

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      • July 5, 2012 at 10:13 am
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        I guess in Thailand it would be. I remember how some beggars I knew in London used to complain about people leaving food beside them while they slept in doorways. They would wake up to the sight of a rat happily munching away next to their face.

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      • January 17, 2013 at 7:41 pm
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        The problem is that the children never want food or drink. What they want is just money only to dedicate to their gangster boss.

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  • July 5, 2012 at 10:07 am
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    I never give to child beggars or most others. There’s an ancient man on Soi Ari who’s a local (not an import) and I will give him small change from time to time.

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  • July 5, 2012 at 10:09 am
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    Thank you for this article. I know there are often many beggars on the streets in Thailand and I’ve wondered how I would handle facing the same dilemma. I would want to help them but I often had a feeling giving them money only makes it worse.

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  • July 5, 2012 at 3:48 pm
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    Richard – I have heard from both Thai and farang friends that these beggars are most often organized by gangs.. but never have I seen any documentation of that. Where can I find such information? It’s hard not to buy flowers from a child….

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    • July 6, 2012 at 8:57 am
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      I have seen documentaries on TV done with secret cameras. Since then I have been more aware and have seen them being dropped off or picked up. Of course, not every beggar belongs to a gang. There are people who need your help.

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  • July 17, 2012 at 2:14 pm
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    Its such a shame, but we live in the developing world and have to come to terms with the fact that all is not as it should be or could be, but if there was a tangible way this little girl and others like her could be helped then I would be happy to do so.

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  • July 20, 2012 at 10:54 am
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    I have just moved here from London, and in London I used to give money to homeless people who were clearly drunk, and were going to spend their money on drink. It may be perpetuating their problem, but if people want money and I have some then why not share? Otherwise they will just find other ways to make money – less desirable to everyone.

    Here, yes, there are certainly children who are working as part of a gang(s) – but if we all choose to give them no money then where will they be? Probably, a lot more worse off from who ever is organising these deplorable schemes. I usually give any change I have to a lady who sits outside of the Thong Lo BTS, even number side, with her child. If she even manages to keep one baht of what I give her then I am happy.

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    • July 20, 2012 at 4:22 pm
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      Where will they be? In the case of the kids that were kidnapped by these gangs, I presume they would be back with their family.

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    • January 17, 2013 at 7:53 pm
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      Why don’t we think to crack down the mafia kidnapping and exploiting the children on behalf?

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    • August 12, 2014 at 10:02 pm
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      Oh weren’t you just the most naïve little newbie back then… Bless
      “but if we all choose to give them no money then where will they be?”

      Hmmm, well apart from the obvious answer the most basic thing you seem to be just completely oblivious to is the fact that all you are doing is perpetuating the cycle of horror on the next generation of ‘cute poor little’ kids…and the generation after, and after that, and…well you get the idea…(except the problem is that you quite patently don’t!). Before your heart explodes with self satisfied good will and moral superiority, let’s slap you with a good ol dose of reality shall we? The fact is that far from you doing good by ‘helping’ one ‘girl’ (read: funding an enormously wealthy and ruthless gangster)- you are in fact directly responsible for inflicting this misery, rape & torture on countless generations to come.
      This is these scumbags bread and butter (oops…croissant, caviar & gold leaf peacocks tears). It’s extremely lucrative and as long as that’s the case (thanks to your ilk) it will continue…unabated.

      People need to think a bit more and ask themselves some basic questions!
      *WHAT’S A GIRL THAT YOUNG DOING OUT SELLING AT THAT TIME OF NIGHT? – Any moron quickly realises that something is definitely not right! – at the very least (even if it was above board) that kids not going to school tomorrow..a basic right that any decent person should demand for children.
      – Get your smart phone out and Google it if need be. The important point is to have critical thinking in the first place.
      *WHY DON’T I SEE ANY MORE THAN 10yrs OLD? WHAT HAPPENS TO THEM?
      – Pro Tip…you probably don’t want to know! Let’s just say it’s very unlikely to be severance pay and a merry bus trip back to Mama & Papa for biggest homecoming party to hit Camburmalaos since the world’s sickest Buffalo was rescued by the ‘Great Falang’…he who go by name Western Union…
      * DO YOU REALLY THINK ANY BEGGAR IN A TOURIST AREA ISN’T’ GANG’ CONTROLLED?? Or to put it another way, just what exactly do you think the odds are that ANY poor down on their luck genuine beggar would be able to set themselves up within 2kms of the lucrative tourist areas, let alone right on Nana, Sukhumvit, Asoke etc. It’s a highly organised gang territorial structure…I have no doubt that if you decided to just go begging (or selling) in those areas you would no longer need to worry about faking a missing limb or two (one of em probably being the wasted ‘limb’ above your neck). It’s just insane people don’t realise this.

      I’m not being harsh on your Tam, just on your post – I imagine your glasses have become distinctly less Rosey over the last 2 years (Christ I hope so). No doubt some of your (d)illusions have been well and truly quashed…I’d imagine it was right around the time your “lady outside the Thong Lo BTS” swapped out (read: discarded or sold) “her” (snigger – so cute you thought this) child….for the first time. And those stunted puppies that never seemed to grow up, tragic. Hang on a gosh darned minute, you don’t think that she just…no she wouldn’t…would she.? Did she just cut their throats and biff em in the nearest Klong and replace them with a new pair the nanosecond they weren’t cute enough revenue generators?? I’m through the looking glass here people…I mean if that’s all an illusion is it therefore possible that I didn’t become an EXTREMELY ‘hansum’ man just after I landed in Thailand…is none of it real…I needings massage, fink too mutt.

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  • July 22, 2012 at 2:42 pm
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    My wife and I met a little girl forced by her mother to sell flowers late at night we didn’t buy flowers from her but she learned that she could always get a bowl of soup any time she wanted. Which was almost every night but at least for 40 bhat she could be full and we didn’t contribute to her moms habit.

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    • January 17, 2013 at 7:55 pm
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      The Mum you said is not her real mum but a mamasang of the mafia.

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  • August 16, 2012 at 9:23 am
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    I only give to the blind whenever I see them singing on the streets

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  • October 30, 2012 at 8:37 am
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    I recently came back from Bangkok on a trip and was strickened by this grandmother who was begging with her two grandchildren, one girl aged 8 and boy aged 5. It was already 10 plus in the night, and they were still out on the streets. Plus it was not in the tourist areas. The girl was sleeping on the pavement, while the boy was going round with a tin.

    Its very saddening and it prompted me to want to give money. But when i heard from my friend that it is syndicated, i stopped short of giving.

    Although I regret not giving, but I know if i had done so, i may have made it worse for them. I now say a short prayer for this particular family, that they are able to take care of their everyday basic needs, and at the same time, are kept away from any harm.

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  • November 13, 2012 at 10:42 am
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    I sometimes see the same man prone on the sidewak pushing his cup along the sidewalk, one hour later I see him in the same spot still pushing the cup—zero headway! HMMM.
    Then a few days later I saw him across town and another location still “trying ” to make some headway.
    He works lunch hour at one location and then dinner hour at another. One day I will sit and watch and see if he can walk, or someone is putting him on the sidewak and then coming to get him and take him to the new “gold mine”

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  • January 4, 2013 at 8:34 pm
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    I find the sight of child beggars in Bangkok quite distressing. It is one aspect of Thai society i find quite disgusting. I too face a dilemma in giving children money because I don’t want to reinforce that behaviour. On the other hand I always give to mothers with children, because I’d feel terrible if I didn’t – I can’t rationalise my tightness faced by them. The other week I did give money and food to a young girl in the very non touristy Saraburi, who I later saw with 3 older boys who obviously her brothers. This was at night and these children were clearly hungry. I feel terrible now I didn’t give them more.
    I am from Sydney. There are quite a few beggars in the streets of the CBD that weren’t there 20 years ago, no children of course- at least not chronologically. I feel that beggars refect adversely on the society in which they struggle to survive.
    I refuse to accept the argument that beggars are organised by more powerful and amoral forces. I found this video quite touching.

    http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=gKKQuiA13hE&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DgKKQuiA13hE&gl=GB

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    • January 17, 2013 at 8:00 pm
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      The children beggaing on the street of Bangkok are non-Thais being kidnapped from Cambodia or Myanmar and controlled by syndicated international mafia.

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  • January 17, 2013 at 8:04 pm
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    I striked up a conversation to a child beggar in Thai but failed to talk with as the child beggar couldn’t understand Thai. He was a non-Thai kidnapped in Cambodia and trafficked to Thailand by syndicated international mafia.

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  • January 23, 2013 at 5:04 pm
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    Not only foreign children but also a lot of Thai children are kidnapping and being forced to beg on the street. What we MUST focus on is NOT helping them and giving a food BUT CRACKING DOWN THE CHILD TRAFFICKING GANGSTERS SO THAT RESCUE THE CHILDREN AND MAKE THEM GO BACK TO THEIR PARENTS !!!!!!!!! Please see the point !!!!!! http://www.facebook.com/Thaimissing

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  • March 21, 2013 at 1:21 am
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    Why not report the begging child to a police officer? Aren’t they supposed to do something? Or are they too a part of this mafia thing? I can’t imagine a policeman just walking past this kid and do nothing. or maybe I’m too naive….

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