Mandalay threatens beggars with arrest

Beggars in Mandalay face the prospect of being arrested after authorities in Burma’s second city announced a bylaw forbidding the practice, claiming it dirtied the city’s image.

Burma is bracing itself for a major influx of tourists over the coming year as political reforms bring it out of decades of isolation. The city of Mandalay, romanticised in a poem by British writer Rudyard Kipling more than a century ago, is expecting to shoulder many of the arrivals, but municipal authorities have begun to worry about their first impressions.

“[The announcement] said the presence of beggars and vagabonds near the central railway station is damaging to the city’s clean image,” a journalist in Mandalay told DVB.

Mandalay has seen an increase in the number of beggars over the past year, many of whom operate in groups around the railway station, which is the main entrance point for arrivals to the city.

The authorities’ task will be complicated however by the various cunning disguises that beggars are known to adopt, with some taking to the streets dressed in monk robes or masquerading as charity workers.

The journalist said it was unclear whether those taken off the streets would be provided with shelter by government agencies, or whether the ban on begging would be compensated by work schemes.

“Will there be any safety for the child beggars [after they get arrested]? There is nothing else they can do except from getting arrested because we are only adopting easy, short-term [solutions],” said the journalist, requesting anonymity.

Reports from Rangoon suggest that hotels are at bursting point, while seats on flights from Bangkok to the former Burmese capital are filling up at a rapid rate. The government’s decision to ban beggars is one of a number of expected measures aimed at given the country’s image something of a facelift.

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