Sunday, August 20, 2017

Mandalay to crack down on child beggars

“Fagins” who train children to beg from passers-by will face a government crackdown as part of the drive to take homeless youngsters off the streets and protect them from a life of crime.

Street children congregate in downtown Mandalay. Photo: Phyo Wai Kyaw / The Myanmar TimesStreet children congregate in downtown Mandalay. Photo: Phyo Wai Kyaw / The Myanmar Times

The Mandalay Region Department of Social Welfare is taking the lead in Myanmar’s second city to stamp out this form of child abuse, said department chief Daw Nann Mout Sai on October 12.

The first step will be publicising the new policy, particularly at the locations where street children gather in Mandalay’s six downtown townships – at traffic light intersections, railway stations and bus stops, and along Kan Nar Street.

“We will put up posters publicising the ban on begging by children, and distribute cartoons among the children themselves, starting this month. Starting in three months, we will take further action,” she said.

Those who train and control the children will face arrest, she said.

“We’re working closely with the police. In the past, we would take the children in and rehabilitate them, and the adults would later take them back, promising not to reoffend. This time, we have to break the cycle. Now we will take action against them under the children’s law and the anti-trafficking law,” she said.

Kind-hearted members of the public who give these children money are just perpetuating the problem, the authorities say. “It’s hard to tell people not to give money to poor children who are begging. But if you give them money, our efforts to take homeless children off the streets won’t work,” said Daw Nann Mout Sai.

U Soe Tint, Mandalay’s sanitation chief, said many street children are hooked on sniffing glue, and resist attempts by police to arrest them.

“In September, we sent 12 street children to the Department of Social Welfare. We’re working with the department to eliminate the problem of street children. They should not be forced to do dangerous work. Even selling flowers at traffic lights can be hazardous. They are exposed to substance abuse,” he said yesterday.

A social welfare survey of 120 street children conducted last May found that 75 percent of them used some kind of drugs, 24pc smoked cigarettes, 15pc inhaled glue, 15pc chewed betel, 5pc drank alcohol, and 5pc used yaba and other drugs.

Translation by Khine Thazin Han