We have noted the continued concern from members of the expat community in Siem Reap, Cambodia, about a ‘Milk Scam’ run by some beggars in the city center. Instead of asking for money they ask tourists to buy powdered milk for their child. In the scam, the shop selling the milk are ‘in’ on this, and the milk is sold back to them by the beggar , so both the beggar and the business make money from the unsuspecting tourist. A serious concern of many is that the babies involved in this scam appear to be drugged to make the situation look bad and generate more sympathy (and a sale) from the tourists.
The Friends Kaliyan Mith (KM) team in Siem Reap have looked into this allegation before, and also sought information from other NGOs (Mith Samlanh in Phnom Penh, M’Lop T’Pang in Sihanoukville, and Komar Rikreay in Battambang), the Angkor Hospital for Children in Siem Reap and UNICEF. None were able to provide any examples of firm evidence or even hearsay that the babies being used for begging were drugged. In August the KM Outreach team went “undercover” for a few days in the city center to observe the situation with the begging babies. Again, no evidence was found that these babies are drugged. The KM Drop-in Center (DIC) is very close to where the begging baby scam is based, so KM will continue via both outreach social workers and the DIC to engage with this group of women.
However, this scam is quite lucrative and still perpetuates the cycle that keeps these babies in at-risk situations on the streets, so in response to your concerns ChildSafe has developed high visibility campaign materials based upon their 7 Tips Campaign to raise awareness among tourists that this practice is actually harmful. Let’s work together to get the message out to tourists – get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get these materials or if you have any questions or comments relating to this issue –
‘Together, protecting children’!