She has another baby, the thought rolled through my head. I commented to a friend walking with me who hadn’t noticed. And she did. A lovely pudgy—in fact, fat—rollicking baby about six months old, lots of pitch black hair, sucking at her breast. She smiled at me… I didn’t smile back… a small alarm bell was ringing, which I chose to ignore for the moment.

Why? There are a number of things wrong with this Madonna-and-child picture.

  1. I pass this beggar every single day. She sits outside a shopping mall that caters to the wealthy locals and tourists, she has not in the six months I’ve walked past her—been pregnant. Previously, yes, but not while I’ve been around.
  2. The breast this baby is sucking is the skinny wrinkled breast of a woman exhausted by many pregnancies and sucklings, there cannot be a single drop of anything in there and the only reason a baby would suckle is to be close to a human pretend-mother.
  3. While the woman is a beggar in the streets of Bangkok, her features speak of Cambodia as her origin. I have passed her many times and the babies or small children she uses to beg with are are thin, ragged and “typical” beggar children. What a dreadful way to think, not so? Typical beggar children. They are also always the same children and could quite possibly be her own. But this baby is very different. It is unusually fat which speaks to me of a wealthy Asian family—fat by tradition being the sign of wealth. It has pitch black hair, not the darker brown of the supposed mother and its features aren’t anything like hers.

I’ve been watching this for a week now, and the baby is much thinner.

The recent exposure of a kidnapping of three women in Ohio some 10 years ago and being kept prisoner in a basement, or eventually on some upper level had me asking “Surely somebody noticed something?” Why didn’t anybody do something? And I received answers that maybe they did, but no one took any notice, the police get many hoax calls, the usual evasive responses that ensure the disappearing of children, the heartbreak in families and, most of all in these poverty-stricken countries with masses of tourism that the Beggar Mafia thrive. I know how the Beggar Mafia operate, either keeping women pregnant to beg with their children, or stealing children. I have seen the sleeping children—drugged to keep them quiet. I have tried to rescue them and been rejected, once hit.

And I asked myself—you noticed something, why haven’t you done anything? If an alarm bell rings, it means there’s an alarm. I worked with distressed children for years, I know the ropes, I know what happens and how, so why haven’t I done anything this time? Have I too disappeared into the it’s-just-one-more-child mindset? The despair that there are so many, what does one more matter? I realize that is exactly what has been happening lately and I will not allow this.

I have a delightful landlady who studied political science. She and I have spent many hours discussing the beggar industry in Thailand, the stolen children, the pregnant villages where women are kept to breed little beggars.

Today I’m doing something and I’m trusting it won’t be too late. Today I’m taking my camera and will photograph the child and woman. I will have to be careful so that she—or perhaps the minions around her who are part of the ring—does not get suspicious and run. I will give the photo to my landlady and hopefully she’ll be able to point me in the right direction.

Just maybe I’ll find the real parents, maybe I can save this one child and the heartbreak of a family. But that’s all I need to do, not so? Just save one.

And what if I’m wrong and it turns out this is her baby or some other beggar’s baby? Fine, at least I did something. I would rather err on the side of good.

I refuse to ignore hurt, I refuse to ignore injustice, I refuse to ignore greed and evil, I refuse to keep silent when I should be shouting, I refuse to go blind when I have seen.