Saturday, 24 March 2012
When I was in northern Thailand I visited a "longneck" village. I had previously heard a comment from someone that these villages were like "human zoos" putting their women on display for tourists to snap some pictures, however I did not know visiting one would have a negative impact. I was told that the "karen paduang" hill tribe people who lived in these villages in Thailand only have refugee status and are unable to work, and therefore paying a visit to their village and buying their handicraft or souvernirs would be something positive. Obviously, the tour guide did not give me any sufficient information about these peoples situation. I had only read a little bit about this tribe and I was curious to see what it would be like when I decided to go. I've reflected a lot about the whole tourist attraction thing, whether visiting them would be negative or positive. I've now read this article: and understand the situation better. However, I still feel it's worth to post the photographs I took of these women, and write something about it. Even though they might be smiling infront of my camera, looking exotic and beautiful in my Western eyes, their background story is not a happy one.
"The women receive only a small percentage of the profits that are made, most of the money goes to Thai tour operators. The girls of these tribes will never have the freedom to choose not to participate in this tradtion as long as tourists make it profitable. By paying to visit one of these villages, you are ensuring that more 5 year old girls will be forced to wear the neck rings. If it were not for the exploitation of these tribes, this tradition would have likely died long ago. In 2006, many of the young women in Mae Hong Son started to remove their rings either to give them the opportunity to continue their education, or in protest against the exploitation of their culture."
This is something most tourists are not aware of. I hope the small donations I made while visiting the village made some kind of difference and I'm happy I had the opportunity to "meet" these girls, even though i wish it would've been under different circumstances. I tried on one of those neck things and it was very uncomfortable!
"The Karen Padaung believe that a long neck is a sign of beauty, and they use neck rings made of brass to stretch the neck of the women of the tribe. It is said that in the past, these rings were applied in order to protect the women from tigers that may try to attack by biting the neck. These rings are first applied to young girls as young as 5 years old. Over the years each ring or coil is replaced with longer coil, as the weight of the brass coils pushes down on the collar bone it compresses the rib cage. Many people believe that the neck is stretched, when in fact the neck is not actually lengthened; the illusion of a longer neck is created by the deformation of the clavicle."
ALSO, READ THIS ARTICLE
This woman had just had a baby. I hope the future for this baby will not involve sitting on display with a neckring for tourists like myself.
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