Wed, Jan 14, 2009
The Star
Beggars a common sight at public places

KLANG VALLEY, MALAYSIA - THE beggars are making a big comeback in the Klang Valley, after a few years of absence following a crackdown by the local authorities.

The beggars are becoming a common sight along the streets in commercial areas, at night markets and outside restaurants and coffee shops.

While there are many generous people who give out of sympathy to these beggars, the public sentiment is that the beggars are a nuisance, especially when they harass people, chasing after them for money.

Sometimes, these beggars approach people who are having meals at coffee shops. Some people give the beggars some coins just to get rid of them, especially when the children are frightened by their dirty look.


Humming away: A shirtless beggar in front of a vegetable stall at the night market.

Many people are wondering if the beggars are part of organised syndicates out to cash in on the sympathy and generosity of Malaysians.

People interviewed by StarMetro want to know what the authorities are doing to tackle this mushrooming problem. They feel that the beggars are an embarassment to the country, especially if they operate at tourist spots like the Petaling Jaya Chinatown.

Following are some case studies done by StarMetro:

Case 1: Batu 14 Puchong pasar malam

StarMetro checked out the Batu 14 Puchong pasar malam that is touted to have quite a number of beggars.

Kind lot: People donating to a disabled beggar sitting in the middle of the road at the 14th Mile, Puchong

The popular weekly Saturday pasar malam was quite a hive of activity with traders of various races operating a variety of stalls. In addition to the many local customers, there were also foreigners patronising the stalls.

The StarMetro team saw several beggars sitting with their begging bowls, asking for money from the many visitors who walked past them.

There was a shirtless old Chinese man with a very thin frame. He was emptying out some notes from his begging bowl into a bag before holding it out again to ask for donations.

When the StarMetro reporters went to casually drop a coin into his begging bowl and tried to start a conversation with him, he only nodded his head, apparently as a gesture of thank you while looking up blankly.

The beggar then held out both his hands, hummed a monotonous meaningless tune, apparently either pretending not to have heard what was being asked or was actually mentally unstable.

There was another beggar, whom the StarMetro reporters bought a snack, hoping to strike up a conversation with him.

He munched on the food hungrily like he had not eaten for days. When asked where he was from, he said Cambodia.

Disabled: The frail beggar from Guangzhou, China, travels from KL by taxi to the market in SS15, Subang Jaya.

The beggar then went on to rattle off about Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia, which perhaps indicated that he could have come into Malaysia via Thailand from his home country.

Asked where he stayed and who brought him there to beg, the Cambodian beggar only smiled, obviously knowing that he was not supposed to tell.

Just metres away sat another beggar looked like a disabled person as his legs were smaller than those of a normal person.

This beggar was crawling along the road quite quickly, using his hands while asking for money from those who passed him.

He was seen crawling back to the five-foot pavement counting the money he had made, then moving back to the road where he continued begging.

The visitors to the night market seemed rather generous and sympathetic to the beggars, as many did not hesitate to drop a few coins into the bowls.

More people seemed to give to the disabled beggar, possibly because of sympathy for his physical condition.

Jason Kua, a regular visitor to the pasar malam, said last Saturday when he was there, he saw a woman carrying a baby sitting on the floor.

"I think these are begging rackets operated by organised syndicates and not genuine cases. Some of these people also don't look local and it can be rather annoying seeing them," he said.

"There was one man who had a leg amputated, and another who was sitting right in the middle of the road asking for money. I had donated a few times to the disabled one, out of sympathy," said Kua, a manager.

However, he said after a while, he got fed up seeing them there every other Saturday.

According to Kua, not all the beggars are there every time as there are often new faces.

"Some are 40-plus, some 50-plus, but there are also a few aged about 30-something or so," he said.

Although some are young, Kua said they did not work as some were disabled.

He wondered how the disabled beggars managed to go to the pasar malam to beg, unless someone had sent them.

Case 2: Subang Jaya SS15 market

At the SS15 market in Subang Jaya, a frail-looking beggar was seen kneeling on the ground with his right leg over his shoulder, bowing to every passer-by and begging them to spare him some change.

Seeing the pitiful sight, many did not hesitate to drop some money into his begging bowl.

Kind lot: People donating to a disabled beggar sitting in the middle of the road at the 14th Mile, Puchong

The StarMetro reporters bought him a snack and tried to strike up a casual conversation, asking him where he came from.

"I came from Guangzhou, China. I'm currently staying in Kuala Lumpur, I got here by taxi which costs about RM10. I get about RM40 to RM50 a day," he said.

Occasionally, a man on crutches and an old lady, who seemed to be in her 80s, are seen begging at the market as well.

Case 3: Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur

Juxtaposed against the swanky shopping malls along the popular shopping hub of Jalan Bukit Bintag, some beggars, who looked like foreigners, are seen begging on the pavements.

An old lady was seen begging from passers-by. Some people dropped a few coins while some just ignored her.

Asked how she came here, the old woman just mumbled something with a strong mainland Chinese accent.

When contacted, a spokesman from the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry said any complaints it received would be channelled to the Welfare Department for action.

In November last year, it was reported in The Star that the ministry has a hotline number that the public could call for complaints on beggars.

The spokesman clarified that the hotline was not just dedicated to complaints on beggars, but a nationwide helpline for all sorts of complaints or problems like child abuse or wife beating.

For complaints on the beggars, he said the hotline staff would take down the details on the beggar, like his physical appearance and where he usually begged.

"This would make it easier for us to forward the complaint to the Welfare Department, which will handle the case in its own way," he said.

"Also, the problem of beggars is under the jurisdiction of the local authorities and the police," he said.

He added that some begged on a part-time basis for side income.

According to the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ), it does not handle or take action against the beggars as it is the responsibility of the Welfare Department. This is so, even if the beggars operate in areas under its jurisdiction.

"Also, we will usually engage the police for the operation as they will look into the peacekeeping and security issue because the beggars may pose problems," an official of the MPSJ public relations department said.

"The public seldom come to us with complaints on beggars as they will call the police directly," he said.

The Petaling Jaya City Council also said it did not handle such matters, leaving it to the Welfare Department instead.

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