Chinese nationals begging in Bangkok not victims of trafficking, says immigration chief
The Immigration Bureau has confirmed that the six Chinese nationals caught begging on Bangkok streets were not victims of torture, physical abuse or coercion by human traffickers.
Pol Lt-General Ittipol Ittisarnronnachai, the Immigration Bureau chief, addressed these concerns at a press conference on Monday.
Seven Chinese men and women have been arrested for begging on Bangkok streets since November 10.
The arrests were prompted by comments on social media, suggesting that human traffickers may be exploiting Thailand’s visa waiver to bring in victims. The individuals caught exhibited facial deformities or had crippled hands or fingers.
Ittipol, however, asserted that the detainees admitted to entering Thailand voluntarily after learning that begging in the capital could earn them up to 10,000 baht a day.
Ittipol said the first person from this group to be arrested was a 41-year-old woman going by the name Kheng. She was apprehended on November 11 in the BTS Skywalk in front of the Siam Square shopping mall.
Subsequently, a Thai woman called Namee, posing to be her interpreter, helped get Kheng out of prison before she was deported on November 17.
On November 18, a 34-year-old woman identified as Wu was arrested by Phya Thai police on a pedestrian flyover in front of the Platinum shopping mall on Phetchaburi Road.
Wu revealed that she had observed beggars earning substantial amounts in major sightseeing spots in a previous visit to Thailand. So, she decided to try her hand at begging and sometimes she earned up to 10,000 baht per day. She said she converted her earnings to yuan and deposited them in her WeChat Pay account.
Following her arrest, the same interpreter delivered Wu's passport and belongings at the Phya Thai Police Station.
In the third case, a 39-year-old woman, Yuan, was detained by Bang Plad police on November 19 in front of the Major Pinklao shopping mall in Bangkok Noi district. Yuan said she and her husband Awu, made a living by begging on the streets in China and had previously begged in Malaysia. She said they arrived in Thailand earlier in the year and earned well from begging.
When his wife was arrested, Awu tried to flee the country, but since his visa was cancelled he was nabbed at the Cambodian border checkpoint in Sa Kaew’s Aranyaprathet district. Before his attempted escape, he had sent an interpreter, Sorapha, to deliver Yuan’s passport at the police station.
The couple remains in custody pending legal proceedings and deportation.
In the fourth case, a 28-year-old woman identified as Hu was apprehended by Thung Mahamek police officers on November 20 at the BTS Saladaeng station in Bangkok’s Bang Rak district. Hu reportedly told police she had entered Thailand independently to beg after learning it was lucrative.
In the fifth case, a 28-year-old man referred to as Fan was arrested by Lumpini police on November 20 at the BTS Asoke station in Thawee Wattana district. Fan claimed he had initially arrived in Thailand as a tourist but had lost his passport. While waiting for a replacement from the Chinese embassy, he resorted to begging to survive.
In the sixth case, a 33-year-old man known as Wang was arrested by Bang Rak police on November 20. He allegedly told the authorities that he had arrived in Thailand as a tourist and stayed at a hotel in the Pathumwan area. However, he said he ran out of funds and decided to start begging on Silom Road.
The immigration chief noted that some of the detainees knew each other and had come together to beg.
Ittipol also said that several of the individuals had previously gone begging in Singapore and Malaysia. Police investigators claim that the deformities and scars on the detainees’ faces and bodies had been caused by accidents in their youth. He insisted that none of them had been subjected to torture or abuse.
He also confirmed that the detainees had full control of their earnings and had not transferred money to anybody else.
As for the Thai women who acted as interpreters, Ittipol said they were not associated with any criminal gangs. He added that they had previously worked with acquaintances of the detainees, which led to them getting involved.
Ittipol added that police are still looking for a Chinese man who was reportedly seen begging in Bangkok’s Lat Krabang area.
He also said that the Chinese beggars had entered Thailand using their passports, which recorded their scars and deformities, confirming they were not new.
Separately, the immigration chief said the authorities have detained a group of beggars from Jordan comprising three men, four women and 16 children.
The group had allegedly been causing disturbances and harassing foreigners in Bangkok’s Nana area.
Their visas have been revoked and they are being held for deportation. No connection has been established between this group and the Chinese beggars.
The names of the detainees and the Thai women in the article are pseudonyms.