Thailand sees a lot more begging tourists than headlines would suggest, says a local journalist.
A photo of Western backpackers begging strangers to fund their holiday at a local market has caused international outrage, with the pair writing that they had run out of money after travelling for 15 months.
Phuket-based journalist Tim Newton told RadioLIVE’s Wendyl Nissen that his team typically find instances of begging backpackers (or "begpackers") every few weeks.
“They come here, they run out of money, and end up on the streets,” said Mr Newton.
The Western backpackers were first caught begging for travel funds at a Phuket market and were fined 500 baht (about NZ$12).
"My name is Alex," read a sign at the Phuket market. "I'm travelling in Asia for 15 months. Sadly, I'm out of my savings, but I stay positive."
But the duo were caught begging again, according to Mr Newton, and had “changed their tune” with a sign indicating their motorbike had been in an accident.
The backpackers were a 21-year-old Ukrainian and 30-year-old Russian, and had been at it for three weeks, according to Mr Newton.
“I think the problem a lot of people see is that they’re not really doing anything other than just sitting there.
“If they were playing a musical instrument or even magic tricks or standing on their head, we might be more inclined to give them a bit more money and have a laugh with them,” said Mr Newton with a chuckle.
According to Bangkok-based website Coconuts, some Thai locals do not know about “begpackers” and will offer money to begging tourists to show their hospitality.
Begging is illegal in Thailand, with foreign beggars potentially facing arrest and deportation if they are caught.
German traveller Benjamin Holst has been denied entry into Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia after conning sympathetic residents into giving him money, which he then spent on partying and drinking in bars.
Listen to the full interview with Tim Newton above.
The Long Lunch with Wendyl Nissen, 12pm - 3pm on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.