Caught Chinese beggars hold expired passports, free visa not to be blamed: Varawut
Social Development and Human Resources Minister Varawut Silpa-archa said on Tuesday that the visa waiver for Chinese tourists should not be blamed for the influx of foreign beggars.
Varawut said the Chinese nationals caught begging on Bangkok streets may be victims or part of human trafficking gangs. He added that the Interior Ministry would handle the issue.
He also pointed out that the passports of the Chinese beggars caught so far had expired, so they could not have entered Thailand on the visa-exemption policy.
The government has waived visa fees for Chinese passport holders from September 25 to February 29, 2024, in a bid to boost tourism.
Thai police, meanwhile, recently arrested several Chinese nationals begging on Bangkok streets.
Recently, a Chinese woman who appeared to have been very badly physically abused was caught begging outside a shopping mall in Bangkok’s Pink Klao area.
Last week, police arrested several Chinese beggars, all of whom were aged over 40. All of them were dressed in Thai university student uniforms.
These arrests have prompted critics to question the government’s visa waiver.
Meanwhile, Varawut said it was unlawful to beg in Thailand, but if the beggars are Thai, they can be handled without any legal complications.
However, if the arrested beggars are foreigners, several laws must be enforced such as the anti-human trafficking and immigration laws.
Varawut said his ministry was working closely with the Labour Ministry and police to tackle human trafficking issues in a bid to try and improve Thailand’s ranking on the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. Thailand has been placed in Tier 2 for two consecutive years.
Varawut said his ministry was compiling information about human trafficking and measures government agencies have taken to defend Thailand’s position before the US State Department issues the TIP Report next year.
Varawut added that information from his ministry will be ready by yearend.
As for the Chinese beggars, he said the police need to investigate the cases and find out if they are linked to human trafficking.
He urged the public to call the 1300 hotline if they see foreigners begging.