KUALA LUMPUR: A total of 391 children were rescued by the authorities since 2008 after they were found begging in the streets.
Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Azizah Mohd Don said those rescued were below 18.
"The children were placed in shelters or returned to their parents of guardians. A bond was imposed on the parents or guardians to ensure that they exercise their responsibility towards their children," she said when replying a question by Che Mohamad Zulkifly Jusoh (BN-Setiu) in Parliament on Tuesday.
To a supplementary question by Che Mohamad, Azizah said the ministry was not responsible for action against parents or guardians who neglected their children who end up begging.
Che Mohamad had asked how many parents or guardians had been charged to date. He also suggested that the punishment of RM5,000 fine and two years jail be increased to deter such cases.
Azizah said the ministry could only report such incidents to the police so that they could conduct their investigations.
She also noted that syndicates behind the exploitation of child beggars had recently switched their tactics to avoid being penalised under the Child Act.
"They (syndicates) are smart as they have changed their strategy and now use those who are above 18 years old or senior citizens to beg," she said.
As for begging at rest areas along North-South Highway, Azizah said PLUS Berhad was working closely with the authorities to check the problem.
She said that beggars spotted at these places were usually temporarily held by PLUS personnel before being handed over to welfare department officers.