Are syndicates behind begging activities in Malaysia?

16 Feb 2022 10:20am
Rohingya boy going from car to car asking for alms. - Source: Facebook
Rohingya boy going from car to car asking for alms. - Source: Facebook

KUALA LUMPUR - What’s going on?

Perhaps that is the first question playing on people’s minds when begging activities seem to have become rampant and more aggressive especially in the Klang Valley.

A recent video clip that has gone viral on social media showing a child believed to be a Rohingya who went from car to car asking the drivers for money in an aggressive manner has shocked members of the public who view the begging trend in the country as worrying.

The incident has also caught the attention of Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin who warned the Rohingyas in the country especially holders of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees card against violating the country’s laws.

It has also sparked various assumptions by the public, to the point of assuming that there must be some syndicates involved in exploiting children and persons with disabilities (PwD) to be beggars to their benefit.

Are there really syndicates masterminding these activities? Intelligence conducted by the Bukit Aman Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants (Atipsom) Division of the Criminal Investigation Department (JSJ) proved otherwise.

These beggars actually act on their own! Investigations and covert surveillance carried out for more than a month in areas frequented by beggars in Kuala Lumpur and Shah Alam showed no offence was committed under the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007 involving exploitation or coercion of beggars.

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Inspections and interrogations carried out by the police did not find any individual who acted as the head of syndicate or middlemen to these beggars.

Bernama reporters who took part in the two-day intelligence exercise conducted by the division had a first-hand experience of the beggars’ modus operandi and tactics to gain sympathy from passers-by.

Children, the elderly, disabled individuals as well as individuals believed to be pretending to be sick and down-and-out were seen begging from members of the public.

A special operation codenamed ‘Op Pintas Bersepadu’ with the Social Welfare Department (JKM) mounted on Feb 9 revealed that many of these individuals ventured into begging willingly as a way for them to earn a living.

Bukit Aman D3 ATIPSOM principal assistant director SAC Fadil Marsus said the operation was carried out for four days to identify if there were elements of trafficking in persons (TIP) namely forced labour exploitation offence committed by certain parties involving panhandlers, beggars, the disabled, the visually impaired as well as foreign nationals.

"What we found is that they commit to the act of begging for survival.

"Some of these beggars have been helped before through zakat (tithe) distribution, Baitulmal aid and JKM allowance, but there are a few who were still caught begging on the street by the JKM,” he said in an exclusive interview with Bernama.

A total of 133 beggars comprising 75 locals and 58 foreign nationals were probed during the operation which was divided into several zones such as Kuala Lumpur, Shah Alam, Ampang and Klang.

Twenty of the foreign nationals were Rohingyas, followed by Indonesia (14), Cambodia (13), Myanmar (5), Bangladesh (2), Pakistan (2) as well as one each from England and China.

Fadil elaborated that out of 133 beggars, 74 were men, 41 were women and 18 were children.

"Meanwhile, 26 were rescued, namely 12 adults who are placed under (Temporary Protection Order), 14 children were handed over to the JKM protection officer, while 46 people were given warnings.

"Besides that, out of 58 inspections carried out among foreign beggars, 29 of them were detained under the Immigration Act while 29 were released for having valid documents,” he said.

The beggars were detained under the Destitute Persons Act 1977, Child Act 2001, Immigration Act 1959/63, House-to-House and Street Collection Act 1947 and Road Traffic Rules 1959 (LN 165/59).

He explained that although eradicating begging activities was not the division’s main responsibility, his party had taken proactive measures due to the concerns of the public regarding the activities that have caused a feeling of discomfort in the community as well as disturbing public order.

He said it was not easy to eradicate begging activities in the country and the generosity of the Malaysian public might contribute to the rise in the number of beggars.

The question now is, can the country tackle this long-standing issue? - BERNAMA