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Begpackers now face jail in Thailand

Temples nationwide are being urged to discourage visitors from giving money to beggars as it is illegal, according to the Beggar Control Act.

General Anantaporn Kanjanarat, head of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS), said that his agency would co-ordinate with the National Office of Buddhism to ask for co-operation from various temples to educate the public about appropriate merit-making ways and to stop them from giving cash to beggars as it is illegal.

“If people wish to help the beggars, they can make donations to the MSDHS projects for vocational promotion for beggars,” he said.

As temples are the sites for worshipping and merit-making, many beggars wander around temples and other high-traffic attractions, to ask for money from visitors.

The minister said stickers warning against handing cash to beggars in English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Cambodian and Myanmar would soon be placed at tourist attractions, airports and state offices.

A recent meeting of the Beggar Control Committee at the MSDHS head office in Bangkok was told 237 beggars (including 156 Thais and 81 foreign migrants) had been detected from October 2018 until March 2019, and a total of 4,361 street performers had registered with the authority for access to public space, with only 300 locations available.

The meeting also resolved to impose a sliding scale of fines on beggars. Those arrested for panhandling for the first time would be fined at Bt500, the second time Bt2,000, the third time Bt5,000 and the fourth time and above Bt10,000.

Such fines were in line with the Beggar Control Act’s latest edition, which prohibits people from being beggars or faces a maximum one-month jail term and/or a maximum fine of Bt10,000.

The new law required beggars to admit to life quality development and protection centers or quit panhandling.

Once they are admitted to such centers, they would not be allowed to leave the centers without permission or face a maximum one-month jail term and/or a maximum fine of Bt10,000.

Those aiding or supporting beggars’ panhandling will face a maximum two-year jail term and/or a maximum Bt20,000 fine, while those reaping benefits from beggars by hiring, asking, abetting and instigating the panhandling will face a maximum three-year jail term and/or a maximum Bt30,000 fine.