RANGOON— The government has announced a crackdown on gangs that profit from children and the elderly begging on the streets of Rangoon and Mandalay.
An action plan to arrest and charge those forcing vulnerable people to beg was drafted last month according to U Soe Kyi, spokesperson of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement.
He said that the ministry will first implement the plan in six areas in two of Burma’s biggest cities, Rangoon and Mandalay, where the practice takes place.
Yangon Central Railway Station, Pansodan, Dala Township, Danyingone market, Aung Mingalar Highway bus station and Thiri Mingalar market in Rangoon are on the ministry’s list.
In Mandalay, Chanmyathazi, Pyigyitagon, Chanayethazan, Maha Aung Myay, Aungmyaythazan and Amarapura townships have been selected.
U Soe Kyi said mobile teams of staff from the ministry, the city authorities, the police and medical staff will be formed in each area.
“We are now starting an education program about forced begging,” he said.
“After that, in collaboration with ward administrators of the selected areas and the mobile teams, we will expose the gangs and take action,” he added.
He said that they will also help to reunite families, provide healthcare, provide schooling and vocational training for homeless children, and organize accommodation for the elderly.
Daw Win Pa Pa Than is a protection manager at World Vision Myanmar—a non-governmental organization working for child protection—and said vulnerable children and poor families are exploited by being made to work on the streets.
“We have seen people begging while carrying sleeping children the whole day,” she said, “it is widely assumed of they are using sleeping pills to drug the children.”
“There are also instances of parents who force their children to ask money from passers-by while they wait in another place.”
“I’m happy to hear the government’s plan to take action against those who use vulnerable children for profit,” she added.
Daw Win Pa Pa Than said that rule of law and cooperation from communities will be important in the plan as residents will need to be alert and cooperate with the authorities to expose those who exploit children and old people.
“It will be hard to trace the ringleaders by asking parents and children as they are afraid of the gangs. Authorities will need to monitor the groups carefully,” advised Daw Win Pa Pa Than.
U Soe Kyi from the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, admitted that it would be difficult to eradicate begging completely but that they aim to reduce the numbers.
“This this initial plan will take immediate action against the gangs,” he added.
Under Section 66(c) of Burma’s 1993 Child Law, sentences of two years in prison or a fine of 10,000 kyats can be handed to anyone who: employs a child to beg for their personal benefit; fails to prevent a child under their guardianship from begging; makes use of a child in any manner in his livelihood of begging.