Western "beg-packers" turning to begging to fund their holiday

FERNANDO FONG

KUALA LUMPUR: THE sight of Western “beg-packers” soliciting money on the city’s streets to fund their travels is not uncommon, according to the public.

A street artist, who only identified himself as Wan, said they were usually spotted along Jalan Bukit Bintang from late afternoon onwards.


“I have seen them trying to sell postcards and photos. I think it is fine if they genuinely run out of money and need some cash to go back home, but not to fund their travels,” said Wan who plies his trade outside McDonald’s Bukit Bintang.

A Nepalese guard, Santini, who patrols the pedestrian bridge that connects Pavilion KL and Impiana KLCC Hotel and Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, said he had chased away foreigners begging in the area on several occasions.

He said he was shocked as many were westerners.

“I have never seen Europeans begging. One would expect them to be too ashamed to beg or are well-off financially,” he said.

The topic has also been discussed in Lowyat.net, Malaysia’s largest online community.

A user by the name “suns8630” wrote that he was shocked to encounter more then 10 Middle Eastern men and women begging on Jalan Bukit Bintang while walking from Pavilion to Jalan Alor with two friends.

“They seem to speak Arabic. I was told they are Syrian refugees who have been here for six months,” he said, adding that a syndicate must be behind it.

Another user, “neuroneuster”, said they should not live by begging.

“I saw tourists buying food for those beggars. Maybe that’s how they survive here,” she said.

The New Sunday Times also checked out Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS), Bandar Tasik Selatan, which has been said to attract the homeless, beggars and drug addicts.

An auxiliary policeman in the area said local beggars and buskers were a common sight, especially along the pedestrian bridge connecting to TBS.

“I have not seen westerners doing the same, although I have heard about it,” said the policeman, who requested anonymity.

Last month, a German beggar, Benjamin Holst, who was known to have travelled to many countries, was spotted begging here.

He was seen panhandling along Jalan Dewan Bahasa Pustaka, in the heart of the city, by NST reporter Adrian Lai.

Already known as a professional beggar, the 32-year-old drew sympathy from tourists and locals with his swollen leg, which was caused by a rare form of localised gigantism called macrodystrophia lipomatosa.

He caused public outrage after posting on Facebook about staying in expensive hotels, drinking in bars and hiring prostitutes, instead of using the money to buy a plane ticket home as he had claimed to do.