Northern Thailand Feature


The Padaung Tribe

The Padaung tribe, a subdivision of the Karen, in Myanmar, is known primarily for its women, many of whom extend their necks to unbelievable lengths by wrapping brass bands around them, one by one, from adolescence. Northern Thailand's three Padaung villages, with more than 30 families, are all near Mae Hong Son. The villages depend on tourism (the people are accustomed to posing for photos), but increasingly the so-called "long-neck women" are rebelling against exploitation by removing their neck rings. The women complain that they earn as little as US$50 a month from operators who profit handsomely from bus tours to the villages. The Padaung suffer additional discrimination from the Thai government, which refuses to recognize them as a Thai hill tribe, denying them the rights of Thai citizens. Human rights groups draw attention to the plight of the Padaung women and challenge tourists to question their consciences before boarding a bus to visit a "long-neck" village.

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