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Sunday, 16 February, 2003, 15:56 GMT
Vietnam cracks down on beggars
Beach scene in Nha Trang, Vietnam
Vietnam boasts great beaches and golf courses

The authorities in Vietnam's central coast city of Danang are claiming success for a project to clean beggars off the city's streets.

Two months ago, they announced a reward of about $13 - quite high to many Vietnamese people - to anyone who reports a beggar to a new 24-hour telephone hotline.

Danang is a major port and a tourist centre.

It is marketing itself as a clean city with no social problems and none of what the Communist authorities call social evils, particularly drugs.

Since the scheme was launched, more than 200 people have been taken off Danang's city streets.

Five negatives

The head of the Danang social affairs department, Nguyen Manh Hung, says the objective is to clean up the city under a campaign called the five negatives - no drugs, no crime, no illiteracy, no hunger and definitely no beggars.

Most of the beggars are old people or children.

Once they have been reported to the special telephone hotline, the people are taken to the centre where they have health checks and are classified according to need.

Mr Hung says that healthy people are sent back to their home provinces, while those who have physical or mental illnesses are treated at the city's expense.

Mr Hung says the beggars are being removed because they make tourists uncomfortable and some are pickpockets.

Veterans

Beggars can be found all over Vietnam.

Many are veterans who lost arms or legs during the Vietnam war, but Danang appears to have an unusual attraction.

Mr Hung says that some of the people who have been taken to the centre come from a tiny commune in Thanh Hoa province far to the north.

People in the commune believe they are protected by a beggar God - a poor man who died in what Vietnamese called the Holy Hour, an unpredictable moment in time which automatically brings deification.

The villagers believe that for good luck they must spend several days every year travelling and begging and return the proceeds to the village altar as an offering to the beggar God.

See also:

06 Jan 03 | Business
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