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Homeless foreigners 'lack assistance'

A GROWING NUMBER of foreign tourists and retirees are becoming homeless in Thailand, and the country should change its mindset to help them - at least with initial assistance - especially with the Asean Economic Community fast approaching, the head of a non-government group working with homeless and displaced people has said.

There are believed to be up to 30 homeless foreigners in Chiang Mai, and there have been reported sightings in popular tourist areas like Phuket and Chon Buri, Natee Saravari, secretary-general of the Issarachon Foundation, said.

"They walk or sit in shopping malls during the daytime and scavenge through garbage for food at night," he said.

In some cases, these foreigners - mostly male Westerners - arrived as tourists or retirees and fell into poverty or neglect after settling down in Thailand, often having being duped or robbed by Thai former wives or partners, Natee explained.

They receive meagre amounts of money from sympathetic foreigners who are aware of their plight, but there was no Thai government agency or even a policy in place to help them.

Due to what Natee dubbed the "Thai-state mentality", there is no law or mechanism to help out foreigners in such cases. When arrested or found by the police, they are mostly deported.

Natee suggested an amendment to the laws and government policy was needed in the long run, and an ad-hoc mechanism put in place in the meantime to deal with such cases, in order to provide immediate assistance. "As the AEC 2015 is nearing, there should be assistance given immediately for such people," he said.

He suggested the Social Develop-ment and Human Security Ministry launch an initiative with officials from other countries in the region to welcome retirees for long stays and to discuss putting a mechanism in place to take care of foreigners who fall into destitution and become homeless.

The head of a government-run asylum in Nonthaburi, Supranee Kaewphet, said there were a few homeless Chinese nationals staying at the facility in addition to some Cambodians.

A senior ministry official, Panya Kangphorn, said a bill on providing assistance to foreigners was awaiting parliamentary scrutiny.


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