While doing research for my trip, I got to read this terrible scam in Siem Reap, Cambodia. When there is a major disparity between the ‘wealth’ of the traveller and the wealth of the local population you will find scams of one sort or another.
Understanding Poverty in Cambodia
In Oct 2015, Cambodia raises the monthly minimum salary to US$140/month.
Based on UNICEF report, Cambodia has an estimated 18.6% of its population below international poverty line of US$1.25 per day. The total population of Cambodia is estimated to be at 14.8 Million, this would mean that at least 2.7 million is living below US$40.
Begging seems to be a norm in Cambodia, frequently you would see kids begging or selling some postcards to traveller or tourist.
Whenever I travel I make it a point to NEVER EVER give money to beggars, as it is said that most beggars are controlled by mafia or the illegal syndicates.
I remember when I was in Bangkok, instead of giving money to the beggar, I bought Macdonalds for the kid on the street that was begging.
So, What is Milk Powder Scam?
Cambodia has turned the notch up in begging and scamming.
Milk powder scam involved a poorly untidily dressed ‘Mother’ carrying her little ‘kid’, sometimes holding an empty milk bottle. Instead of asking money from you, they would tell you that they needed milk powder, and would bring you to a nearby convenience store to purchase a tin of milk powder.
Many well-intentioned travellers, wouldn’t bat an eyelid to purchase a tin of milk powder (US$20-30) for the beggars, thinking that they know that the money would be put to good use to fill a little baby’s stomach and to help one less hungry person.
But the fact is that the tin of milk powder would then be sold back to the shop owner and they would split the cash.
So, What is the big deal? They need the money
Here comes the scary part,
- The ‘kid’ does not belong to the ‘mother’, and the scams are run by an illegal syndicate. The ‘kid’ could be from child trafficking, their family might have thought that their ‘kid’ is in an orphanage, and is well-taken care off with proper education. (CLICK Here to read my article on Volunteering 101: Cambodia)
- Many have commented that the ‘kid’ tends to be in a drowsy and sleepy mode for the more than 16-20 hours, and it seems that the ‘kid’ is being drugged.
- Some have also commented that they have seen, the ‘mother’ blowing cigarette smoke in the ‘kid’ face and the ‘mother’ tend to carry different ‘kid’.
So, Where do they normally roam around?
Many reports mentioned that the scam takes place in Pub Street at Siem Reap, but this can happen anywhere around the world not just Siem Reap.
So, What should I do?
If you happened to face the situation, just politely declined them.
Do not buy milk powder, postcards, or any souvenirs from street beggars, as the money NEVER EVER goes to them, and would fall into the hands of the illegal syndicates.
REMEMBER: The supply of money would encourage more beggars, leading to more kids being trafficked and drugged.
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