Don’t get Milked!
Many visitors to Siem Reap are aware that they will be confronted by beggars and while most people are aware that giving money to beggars is not an effective way of helping, they often fall for the milk scam.
When visiting the main tourist areas in Siem Reap you will likely be confronted by children or mothers carrying young babies on their hip, asking you to not give money but buy milk. One of the most common places this takes place in around the Old Market and with the Mini Mart located beneath the X Bar.
Generally these children look disheveled and in desperate need. Many people come, see this situation and want to help, unfortunately buying milk formula only reinforces these practices and ensures these children remain in this position.
The way this scam works is that the children encourage tourists to ‘not give money’ but ‘buy milk for the baby’ The milk is then purchased by the well-meaning visitor, often for $10 or $20 dollars. As soon as the tourist leaves the milk is sold back to the shops – The shop gets half of the money, the child hands the rest over to the adult who is effectively ‘pimping’ them. At the end of the day this is a very well organised syndicate, making a huge amount of money, for one or two people.
The children involved do not benefit, they end up walking the streets all day and night, and the reason it continues is because it’s very profitable for those making the money. These children miss out on a childhood, and schooling, they are placed in risky environments and unfortunately have no control over the situation. It is terribly sad, but it’s important to understand by buying the milk formula you are encouraging this behaviour.
Keep in mind the National average income is still around $1-2 per day – so this is an extremely profitable scam. By buying milk powder you are encouraging this scam. If you want to help children most in need visit Concert www.concertcambodia.org and find out how you can assist in a meaningful way.
Similar scams also exist with the purchase of text books, rice and educational materials. These are rife on the Chong Khneas part of the Tonle Sap lake and many people have reported being very strongly pressured into making school book purchases – often for as much as $20 (usually with no more than $2 of real value). If you plan on visiting this part of the lake, be prepared that you are likely to encounter this and be strongly pressured into making such a purchase. Again, this is a scam and the people you are trying to assist do not benefit.