When life imitates art: beggars as actors
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Dressing up in hospital clothes and slathering themselves with red water colors, some lazy individuals pretend to be disabled to play on the sympathy and generosity of other people, earning fat income.

At Ba Chieu market: this man is a healthy one

Professional beggars

Amid the crowds at Ba Chieu market (Binh Thanh district, Ho Chi Minh City) on a Sunday afternoon is a miserable looking 50-year-old man.

Sitting on a bottom-pad made from a car tire and putting his hands in two sandals, he hauls his body forward with great difficulty. After every few meters, he stops to hold out his cap, begging for money.

Occasionally he lies down on the street, sobbing like a child. This “performance” earns him a bundle of money from passers-by. He then drags his body to another street and the performance begins all over again.

At around 10 o’clock, he moves towards some coffee shops on Dinh Tien Hoang street to continue the act. At 11:30 a.m., he gets to a nearby bus stop, slowly takes the tire out from under him and puts it into his bags.

After changing into an orange T-shirt, he quickly gets up on his feet and jumps onto the bus without difficulty, disappearing into the crowd of passengers.

Yet his performance is not as impressive as that of the two young men “working” on Sai Gon bridge.

During the rush hours, one of the two, in patient clothes, is seen lying sickly in the arms of the other. Down at their feet is a bag holding a few household items to reinforce the impression that they are patients who just left the hospital.

Whenever people stop to give them money, the healthy one will start wailing, “My little brother has kidney disease. We are here begging for money to buy tickets to go back to our home town, for we can no longer afford the hospital fees.”

However, when our reporter offers them VND 50,000 and proceeds to take a picture of them, the man immediately returns the money and tells the reporter that such a sum is not enough for him to take a photo.

After stunning the passers-by on the bridge with such an action, the two stand up and move to another location.

Around 11 o’clock, they slowly saunter down to Den bridge, changing into new clothes, and are picked up by two men on two motorcycles.

In just a few hours, a number of compassionate but gullible people have been taken in by these two young men.
A family of beggars.

At 6 o’clock on March 15, our reporter was present in front of a house in ward 5, Ben Luc, Long An province, to follow a woman and her son who are taken by her husband to Ho Chi Minh city to “work” as beggars.

They arrive at Hoang Van Thu park (Tan Binh district), where the woman changes into her patient clothes. They then move to a crowded place to begin their “performance.”

The woman leans on the young man’s shoulder, her face winces painfully and she begins crying out of pain. The young man also starts to cry sorrowfully.

Their performance is so convincing that one passer-by after another stop to give the man money, some even in large-denomination notes, like VND 50,000 or 100,000 (USD 2-5).

After just half an hour, the previously empty cap becomes filled with money, which is quickly transferred into the man’s pocket when no one notices.

At 9:15 a.m., the husband comes back to take the two “actors” to the Lac Long Quan – Au Co crossroad, where the woman again leans on her son and starts groaning.

“My mom is terminally ill with cancer. She may not make it, please give me some money to take her home”, whimpers the young man, holding out the cap in his hands.

At 12:05 a.m., as the crowd is thinning, the husband comes back to pick them up on his motorbike and the three head towards a coffee shop on Nguyen Trai street, where they shock the customers there by taking out the money and starting to count it.

The woman is now no longer a cancer patient in her hospital clothes, but a healthy woman with a cigarette on her lips.

After drinking and counting their earnings, the three ride back to Long An.

A large sum raked in everyday

On March 18, at the crossroad of Le Dai Hanh and 3/2, a man in his mid-twenties is lying on the curb, his face seemingly afflicted with various skin diseases, his leg covered with blood, and his fingers shaking and bent like a disabled person.

At times, he sits upward, bowing to the passers-by. If someone gives him money from a distance, he just “forgets” that he is a disabled, and stand up and approach to get the money on his two feet.

Putting the money into his pocket every 40 minutes, the man soon fills his four big trouser pockets with banknotes.

When the street is empty, he leaves the place, washing his arms and legs and revealing himself to be a completely healthy young man.

At a coffee shop on Hoa Binh street, he begins counting his earnings for the day, which comes to more than VND 1.2 millions (USD 60).

Yet he tells the others that such amount is nothing. There are days when he can rake in 4 millions dong (USD 200) after a whole day “working”.

On the first and fifteenth day of the lunar month, I can earn a lot more than that, he says.

Similarly, an old couple on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai street or Ong Lanh bridge also earns no less than half a millions dong (USD 25) a day by exploiting people’s compassion and cheating them out of their money.

Passers-by at crossroads like Ton Duc Thang – Nguyen Huu Canh or Nam Ky Khoi Nghia – Nguyen Thi Minh Khai may sometimes see a little girl, around 12, crying and begging for money.

When asked, she would say that she had had her pad of lottery tickets stolen.

The truth, however, is that she is just a “tool” to earn money for a healthy, 50-year-old man, who takes her to the crossroads every day for her to cry, while he himself waits comfortably in a coffee shop.

The little girl can only get home after 9 p.m., which she has got used to, after 4 years of “crying for money.”

After one acting session, he counted the cash

He then changed into nice clothes and took the bus home

A family of beggars

This woman claims to have cancer. She\'s walking with her crying son

After earning some money, she and her son sip some drinks. This cancer-stricken woman is enjoying a cigarette

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