A top government welfare official sparked controversy by urging his fellow Thais not to give money to beggars, claiming many earn 20 times more than the minimum wage.
Anukul Peedkaew, head of the Social Development Department, part of the Social Development and Human Security Ministry, asserted that Bangkok beggars average 1,000-2,000 baht a day, with some taking in 7,000 baht a day.
Thailand’s minimum wage is 316 baht a day.
Anukul argued that giving money to beggars only encourages the exploitation of vulnerable people, including children, who may be forced by others to beg. To stop the practice, the official has called on Thais to desist from giving money to beggars.
Some Thais took issue with Anukul’s view, however, pointing out that the coronavirus pandemic, which has battered the economy, has caused financial hardship for millions of Thais, many of whom have been forced to beg for food and some money.
“I’ve been seeing a lot more beggars on the streets in my area than I used to,” Bussaba Prakew, a woman who runs a small eatery in central Bangkok, told UCA News, a Bangkok Herald partner. “I give them food and drink. They are very grateful. I feel sorry for them.”
All around Bangkok the numbers of destitute people lying on sidewalks have visibly increased, yet few of them seem to be begging outright. Instead, most appear to be surviving on handouts from locals in the form of food and other necessities.
A severely disabled person in a wheelchair who was selling trinkets to passersby outside a convenience store told UCA News on Feb. 13 that he earned only a few hundred baht a day at most.
“Sometimes I get more, sometimes I get less,” he said. “I wouldn’t be doing it if I could earn money any other way, but because of my condition I can’t.”
Here and there, children, usually with their parents, can also be seen begging on streets.
Anukul asked the public to report instances they encounter of children begging on streets so that authorities can investigate the reasons why they are forced to beg.
Human trafficking rings have long been accused of using children, severely disabled people and others as beggars in money-making schemes around Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand.