Big cities in general, including HCM City, are the favorite places for beggars. People usually think that children become beggars because they are orphaned or abandoned. However, many of them are puppets in beggar rings. Correspondents investigated and found out a brutal truth.
Training beggars by rattan switches
In May 2011, Saigon was flooded after downpours. In the flow of vehicles which were ‘swimming’ in flooded road. Nguyen Van Ti, 12, from the southern province of An Giang, dragged his legs in water to beg for money from passers-by. We gave him VND10,000 and offered to buy a noodle bowl from a pavement noodle shop for him. Ti immediately agreed. He ate two bowls.
Being asked about his parents and hometown, Ti burst into tears. The boy said: “My family was very poor. I only remember that my parents were in An Giang but I did not remember which commune. My parents sold me to a man named Tuan in Saigon when I was six years old. His inferiors trained me in two months to become a beggar.”
Asking Ti about the training method, the boy only spoke in a tiny voice: “They beat us by rattan switches until our legs lost sensation and limping. They did that to make us look pitiable.”
Through Ti, correspondents went to the nest of a beggar trainer named Binh, 56, in District 7. Binh is a ‘well-known’ ringleader in Saigon, which controls over 15 child beggars, including Ti.
Ti told correspondents that Binh’s inferiors usually ‘trained’ new beggars at 2pm. Through slits on the door, correspondents witnessed a man who ordered his two inferiors to use whips to ‘train’ four kids from 10 to 13 years old.
From the distance of 40m, reporters still heard the sound from whips. Kids cried and screamed painfully. One shouted: “Please don’t beat me any more. My leg has been broken.”
In early 2012, correspondents got acquainted with a beggar named Dung, 11, from Binh Phuoc province.
Dung said that a boy named Bo, 12, from Dong Thap province, was about to be turned into a real disable boy. According to Dung, Bo did not meet ‘standards’ set by his manager, Mr. Bac, in the last two months. Bac, who ran over ten beggars, threatened to break Bo’s leg or arm.
Correspondents told the information to a policeman, asking for help. However, a short time later, they met Dung again, who was walking with a limping boy. Dung introduced: “This is Bo.” Correspondents were shocked.
After that, they talked with many beggars in HCM City to find out cruel information about ‘beggar training centers.’
Pham Xuan Huy, 13, from Quang Nam province, said: “They trained us by whipping us with elastic bands or coming to blows.”
Hong, 11, from Ca Mau province, said: “They did not give any food to us for two days. Many beggars in my group had their heads shaved. They also beat to our genitals or forced us to eat pepper and salt if we did not bring in much money.”
Reporters saw Nguyen Van Ti again, after nearly one year. Ti said he was ‘promoted’ for two months, to be a ‘chim lon’ (barn-owl), who was in charge of watching over other beggars.
“If they (beggars) hide money, I will be the first who is beaten. I only wish to enter an orphanage. I could not stand this anymore,” Ti said.
The boy looked scraggy, dirty black while his hair was sunburnt.
According to correspondents’ investigation, beggar running rings recruit abandoned kids, orphans and homeless kids from neighboring provinces.
A hard war
Nguyen Van Ti, 12.
According to a policeman in HCM City, the local police agency knew about beggar running rings but it is extremely difficult to investigate them because they moved very often. In addition, child beggars did not confess about these rings to police. HCM City police have recently broken several beggar rings.
Mr. Huynh Van Binh from the HCM City Children’s Right Protection Association said this was the first time he heard about beggar running rings. On behalf of the association, Binh asked relevant agencies to take drastic measures to put an end to this.
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