Hundreds of Cambodian beggars were rounded up in Bangkok during a targeted sweep last week, according to Thai media reports. Over the course of three days, 570 Cambodians, 200 of whom are minors, were detained, the Bangkok Post reported yesterday.
However Thai and Cambodian officials both denied that any of the 570 had yet been deported.
“Beggars disturb foreign tourists and damage the tourism image of Thailand,” the newspaper quoted immigration police chief Wuthi Liptapanlop as saying.
Cambodian border police and a spokesman for Thailand’s anti-human trafficking agency both said yesterday they had heard of the roundup.
Sao Bunrith, Poipet immigration police chief, said that he had heard a number of beggars were set to be deported, but that none had yet been sent back.
The number of people who have been sent back in the last week is the same amount as usual, said Mr Bunrith, noting that approximately 100 to 200 deportees come through the Poipet crossing each day, and that the bulk are young men.
An employee at Thailand’s National Operation Center on Human Trafficking, Sarayut Notip, wrote yesterday in an e-mail that those rounded up were “detained for identification process, so they have not been deported yet,” but he would not confirm how many had been held or whether they were all indeed beggars.
“We cannot confirm the number of people until the authorized department announces the number,” he wrote.
According to Lim Tith, national project coordinator at the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking, beggars make up just a small portion of Cambodian migrants in Thailand but that their plight can be particularly dire.
“They have no job here and they go to Thailand thinking they can make money,” said Mr Tith. In order to get through the border, they indebt themselves to brokers who then sell the migrants’ labor to others.
“Some beggars work on their own, but most work for brokers,” he said of the organized nature of Bangkok begging.
Mr Tith noted that frequently those repatriated to Cambodia simply wind up sneaking back to Thailand again and again.
(Additional reporting by Phorn Bopha)