Begging is big business in Cambodia. Pay no attention to the fact that Cambodia recieves some of the world's largest donations from NGO's and the UN. Not to mention loads of money from the booming tourist industry. The government is outrageously corrupt and sees to it that the people don't see a single penny of it. As a result, begging has become an essential part to survival. Locals take to the streets and stalk tourists like vultures for a meal, a drink, a dollar.
Begging in a bowl. There were even beggars in lakes and riversl
They play on Western guilt (Non-existant in the East as they see life as the product of karma. Born a beggar? Oh, you must have done something horrendous in one of your past lives.) by waiting outside of museums. Or stalking people in restaurants. So profitable is begging, that families send their children to the streets than to schools. The locals are professionals, especially the children, and it's become a game to them. They teach each other the English they need to know to talk to tourists and have even learned the capitals of the most common Western countries, as to impress tourists. The omnipresent question, "Where are you from?" had never been more annoying because my reply was always met with, "Washington D.C. is the capital of USA." I decided to mix it up:
Beggar: Where you from?
Beggar: Oslo is the capital of Norway.
I eventually caved in and invited a little beggar boy to have dinner with me. Not only was he happy to accept, but he also ordered the MOST expensive thing on the menu. When his french fries and chicken breast came out, he wanted to order a bowl of rice, admitting that he didn't even like french fries. I found it all laughable because the motto, beggars can't be choosers, was actually coming into play in front of my eyes. That was the defining moment when I stopped feeling guilty.
The little beggar I ate dinner with.
Probably the most disheartening part of the begging problem is that many of them are victims of landmines left by the Americans during the Vietnam War. Unfortunetely, most of the landmines haven't been deactivacted. Consequently, locals roam the streets with stubs for arms and pathetically point them to traveller's in the hopes that they'll spare a dollar.