Bangkok is awash with beggars; they usually crowd any of the countless passenger bridges that cross Bangkok’s streets, Sky train stations or other well-known areas of the city. I don’t usually give anything unless their situation seems exceedingly desperate. Young children, old folk and the odd disabled person will get a few Baht from me, but I refuse to give an able bodied individual a handout. My reasons are:
1) Many young children have no homes, they often sleep on or under the very bridges they beg on. This problem is compounded by the large amount of broken families in Thailand. How often has a girl told you the story of her cheating Thai husband who left her and their child to go live the life with his Mia Noi? Most girls are not ready to take on the responsibility of rearing a child alone and either dump the child on relatives or abandon them completely.
2) Old folk often don’t have a choice. Thailand provides very few benefits to the elderly. Being to old to work, most rely on their family for support. When the family pulls the plug or disappears, they are left destitute.
3) Disabled people almost fit into the same situation as the elderly, their employment options are limited and they rely on others for help.
But how often have you come across completely able-bodied individuals begging? I’ve noticed a huge increase in my area. I’ve even noticed a few Farang beggars outside some of the more “well known” areas. These people don’t want to work. It’s much easier to ask for handouts than it is to put in an honest days work. Some even go as far as to bring babies from neighboring countries and borrow puppies from nearby Soi Dogs to add to their plight. On occasions when I’ve offered some food I’ve been verbally abused for being cheap.
I managed to find this interview with a Dutch beggar on www.youtube.com. He says he manages to pull in about 1000 Baht a day, that’s more than some English teachers.
Thai people are generally sympathetic and give easily, they believe in the concept of Nam Jai, which means “water of the heart” or anything they give will come back to them. But I can guarantee that after giving these beggars some cash, they will walk away thinking about what a sucker you are.
Begging in Bangkok is a choice made by most. I don’t recommend you support them in their efforts; it will only escalate the problem. Rather save the money and donate to one of the various charity organizations in Bangkok. At least then you know it is being put to good use.