Bangkok Child Beggars: A Mother’s Day Nightmare
Sunday, May 12
I’ve travelled enough that the sight of bodies laying in metro stations next to a tin cups does not shock me. But nothing prepared me for this sight on Mother’s Day. As we headed up the stairs to the Asoke Station, we saw a sleeping body laying in the landing – the sleeping body of a boy of maybe nine or ten years old – and next to him an empty cup. Above him, at the top of the flight of stairs which led into the crowded “Sky Train” MTR station, was a little boy who couldn’t have been more than three years old. Alone. Who in God’s name leaves a three year old alone in a metro station?
While John (and the scores of people who passed without a glance) seemed to think there was nothing we could do, I got the little guy’s attention, and said (pathetically, in English) “Is that your brother?” The little guy looked away. Then I saw a guy who looked like he worked at the MTR station and pointed to the little boy. He just shrugged his shoulders and nodded – as if to say, “I know. What can we do about it?”
The next day.at the very same landing, I saw this.
So in my turmoil over what I should have done with the three year old (1. Give money; 2. Give food or a toy; 3. Turn the kids over to some authorities, the police?; 4. Wake up the brother; 4. Stay with the toddler until an adult shows up) I decided to do this: Tell you.
An organization (supported by Unicef and many other agencies) called ChildSafe is active in Thailand. childsafe-international.org This organization suggests that you should NOT give money to begging children because it only supports the system. Some of the beggars might be poor individuals, but some of them are victims of an organized begging mafia, where the beggars get only a fraction of their take.
Think before giving. http://www.Thinkbeforegiving.org
Here’s more from the ChildSafe website: “Giving money or buying goods directly from children is usually the only response that comes to mind. But giving money to the children will maintain the children on the streets, working and begging, and it also reinforces their vulnerability to all forms of abuse, including sexual abuse… and being sold into various forms of slavery.”
“Increasing numbers of Cambodians (both adults and children) are going to Thailand to beg on the streets or work illegally in a variety of sectors… putting themselves at risk of trafficking and other abusive situations. Ever-increasing regional economic disparities means that Thailand is now the number one destination for poverty stricken families from the rest of the region.”
“There are estimated 100 million street children worldwide” according to the ChildSafe website.
The ChildSafe site also links prostitution and child abuse (we are, of course, staying right next to “Soi Cowboy,” the street which is notorious for prostitution.
Again from the website: “Avoid places that tolerate prostitution. Throughout the world, a high percentage of sex workers are minors. By supporting businesses that tolerate prostitution you are supporting an environment that places children at risk. Do not hesitate to report cases.”
“Massage” places in our neighborhood – girls on display in matching outfits.
There are many of these “massage” places in our hotel’s neighborhood.Plus the street “Soi Cowboy” is packed with bars and brothels. It’s not hard to see the link between this and those kids begging on the streets. Do these girls look over 18 to you? While it might be nice to think they are working girls looking for extra income at night, I don’t think so.
After seeing the little boy on the landing, John land I went to the Weekend Market at the Mo Chit Sky Train exit and tried to think about something else for a while. We did see a little napping toddler stretched out on the laps of his family members – mom, aunts, and grandma. Seeing the little guy being coddled under a fan and surrounded by love made us feel a little better.
But the sites of the day require a whole lot of processing and internal screaming.
Update on this day: There is something we can do about those kids on the street. On Tuesday May 14, I purchased some jewelry made of recycled paper by a company called “Paperista Recycles.” The ChildSafe website suggested that one way to address the problems of poverty (and accompanying plagues of child abuse, abduction, prostitution) is by supporting nonprofit organizations which give stable employment and support to poor people.
Paperista Recycles sells (in shops and online) community products made from recyclable materials. On the tags of the jewelry I bought, it says, “World protection of community groups (People in vulnerable communities of Thailand)”.
According to the Paperista Facebook page, “With every purchase…you help poor families we work with achieve self-sufficiency and sustainable living through making and selling handmade products from recyclable materials.”
There is hope. Here’s the “about” from the Paperista Recycles FaceBook page:
“After being let go by her former employee in February 2012, Premvadee Kaewburee kick-started a community enterprise, using her own compensation to create jobs in local communities and help poor families earn stable incomes.”
So…small as it seems, there is hope.
Martha – Madly Traveling Asia with Faucet Marketing Husband