Pattaya moves on homeless problem

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Promises deportation of destitute, mentally ill foreigners

Publicity over the growing number of Thai and foreign homeless on Pattaya’s streets finally has prompted city officials to convene a committee to address the problem.

Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh chaired the March 6 city hall session attended by Chonburi Immigration Police, Chonburi’s Social Development and Human Security Office and Banglamung Hospital. The goal of the meeting was how to handle not only vagrants, but the mentally ill wandering the streets.

Publicity over the growing number of Thai and foreign homeless on Pattaya’s streets finally has prompted city officials to convene a committee to address the problem.Publicity over the growing number of Thai and foreign homeless on Pattaya’s streets finally has prompted city officials to convene a committee to address the problem.

Officials noted the problem is not an easy one to get a handle on because Thai law does not allow the state to arrest or commit people to shelters simply for being homeless. Unless they are minors or certifiably mentally ill, they cannot be forcibly removed from the streets if they don’t want to go.

In the case of those under 18, however, Nong Plalai’s Baan Mitmaitree shelter officials said they would start accepting homeless minors. In order to remove older homeless people from the streets, however, the subjects will have to sign a consent form that they agree to be placed in shelters.

Foreigners, however, are a different story. Immigration officials said any homeless nationals from Cambodia, Laos or Myanmar will be deported immediately. Those from other countries will be deported after verifying their passports and other documentation with their embassies.

Handling mentally ill or unstable homeless people is more complicated, officials agreed. Banglamung Hospital executives said they are having increasing difficulty in sending patients for therapy. Ronakit said another meeting with executives from Banglamung, Chonburi and Sakaew hospitals would be needed.

The deputy mayor said the suggested plan is to treat mentally disturbed patients with medication until cured, placing some in Baan Mitmaitree to be cared for if needed.

Again, however, authorities would simply wash their hands of any problem with foreigners, obtaining medical certifications that they are mentally ill and then deport them back to their home countries, immigration police officials said.