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Child Beggars in Thailand: A Lucrative Business

August 2005

A study carried out by the Mirror Foundation (Mirror Art Group) of Thailand's beggars has revealed a business built on children trafficked from Cambodia and Burma, who make nothing from their takings and are sometimes beaten. The brokers get the children from poor families in the border regions by buying, renting or kidnapping them. Hundreds of these children have been rescued and rehabilitated. Before a child is sent home, non-government organisations and the ministry evaluate the family first to ensure the families will not sell the children again. In July 2005, the Royal Thai Police set up a division focused on protection of children and women, and the division's commander has said the child beggars will be treated as victims and not as criminals.

A new snapshot of the begging trade in Bangkok shows a business built on children trafficked from Cambodia and Burma who never profit personally from their lucrative daily takings and are sometimes beaten to make them objects of greater pity.

No one can say how many children are begging in the Thai capital but the three-month survey of the trade earlier this year shows children aged from three months to 10 years are working long hours in tourist destinations and busy business precincts. A handler sits close by in a small business, perhaps selling flowers, and regularly collecting the cash.

The findings are set out in a report released with the International Labour Organisation, "Child Beggar Business - Investigating Children in the Beggar Business."

The survey, during which researchers observed the beggars at four central Bangkok locations for three months, proved that it was a business, not normal begging.

It is a lucrative trade, with children making between 500 baht ($15.80) and 3000 baht a day for their brokers. They receive only basic food and accommodation. A shop assistant earns 6000 baht a month.

The survey showed old women carrying very young children or babies, one old woman with a different child each day or the same children with a different mother. Rarely did the children speak Thai: most of them came from Cambodia or Burma. The brokers got the children from poor families in the border regions by buying, renting or kidnapping them.

The brokers talk to the parents, offer them 3000 to 7000 baht-a-month rent for a child. They want children from three months to 10 years old because that is the age that appeals to passers-by.

While the number of beggar children working in Bangkok is hard to quantify, hundreds have been rescued and rehabilitated. Before a child is sent home, NGOs and the government evaluate the family. If they believe they will sell the children again, they will not send them back.

Ghe situation for beggar children had improved in that it was now seen as a problem. In July, the Royal Thai Police set up a division focused protecting children and women. Lieutenant-General Kumronwit Thoopkrajong, the division's commander, said that the beggar children would be treated as victims, not as criminals.1


1 Adapted from: Connie Levett. "Child beggars exploited, beaten and making a small fortune - for others." August 13, 2005. http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/child-beggars-exploited-beaten-and-making-a-small-fortune--forothers/2005/08/12/1123353501568.html

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