Serial beggar causing grief for expats in Saigon

Published:  1 Nov at 6 PM
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Expats living and working in Saigon are furious about an American expat beggar who’s survived on the streets for an entire year.

Unconfirmed reports give the reputed American beggar’s name as Tim Style, with a local expatriate store owner confirming he’s seen Style in various Saigon locations for around a year. The beggar holds a sign written in Vietnamese asking passers-by to give him money for food, and is apparently telling anyone who’ll listen that he’s lost all his ID papers and money and can’t afford the trip back to his home country. Vietnamese citizens who’ve given him money in the past and seen him begging again are also disturbed, saying he should go to his embassy or consulate for help rather than begging on the streets.

Some suggested they’d be happy to take him to the USA’s Saigon Consulate General’s office located in Ho Chih Minh City, but he refused their offer and walked away. An online storm of negative posts about him has fuelled expatriate anger, with words such as ‘unacceptable’ and ‘shameful’ to the fore, and many said the man is undermining the image of foreigners in the eyes of the local people. Other expats are confirming that Style has been begging in and round the city for at least a year and has been spotted regularly on Le Lai and Dien Bien Phu streets.

Beg-packing by Westerners has become a hot topic in Southeast Asian forums, with annoyed expats in Thailand and Singapore adding their voices to those in Vietnam. A few are sympathetic, but the majority consider the practice takes unfair advantage of citizens of poorer countries. One infamous beggar, German national Benjamin Holst, was seen last year begging for money again in Saigon as well as spending it on alcohol and meals in upscale restaurants. Holst was already banned from entering Thailand, and he’s also banned in several other Southeast Asian countries.
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