Police arrest two Russians for begging on the streets of southern Thailand

Thai police arrested two Russian men yesterday for begging on the streets of Surat Thani in southern Thailand. The men held signs saying they are fleeing war in Russia.

Surat Thani Immigration officers, tourist police officers, and officials from the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security jointly arrested 36 year old Evgenii Malakhov and 32 year old Alexander Kulikov at the Glowing Garden Fair near the Naris Bridge.

Both men were arrested under suspicion of, “being an alien allowed to stay in the kingdom temporarily illegally begging at Naris Bridge, Talat subdistrict, Mueang Surat Thani district.”

Malakhov and Kulikov were busking for money, which is considered a form of begging in Thailand.

The Russians held a cardboard sign with the following message written in Thai and English…

“Help! I am fleeing war in Russia. My money has run out. I do not want to return to the war. Can you help by donating? Do you have any free food for me?”

Police detained both men for interrogation at Mueang Surat Thani Police Station, where they told police that they entered Thailand on December 9. The men told police they had run out of money and did not want to return to their home country.

It is notoriously difficult to gain status as a refugee in Thailand. The government considers arrivals from Russia to be tourists and not refugees fleeing the ongoing Russia – Ukraine conflict.

An estimated 700,000 Russians fled the country since Russian President Vladimir Putin announced military conscription in September. Many went to Kazakhstan, Serbia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Finland, and Thailand.

Since September, Russian arrivals in Thailand have increased sevenfold. This winter, Thailand is granting 45-day stays for tourists from Russia and other countries with bilateral agreements with Thailand with extended visa exemptions on arrival.

In November, the behaviour of two European tourists selling jewellery on the streets of Bangkok “to fund their world tour” was called into question in an online debate about “begpacking.”

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.