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Monday, May 19, 2008

Thailand opens zoo of long-necked women

In Thailand, there is a ethnic group where the women wear brass rings around their neck, both as a beauty enhancement and as a status symbol. As a result of the constant pressure of these brass rings, their necks become much longer than normal, and give them a distinctive appearance. They are called the Padung or long-necked Karen in Thailand, but they consider those terms denigrating and call themselves Kayan. The authorities have made many of the villages of this ethnic group as tourist attractions, and in a new issue, have actually started charging money from tourists:

Thai provincial officials have allowed a new "human zoo" featuring "long-necked" or "giraffe" women to open in Sattahip near Bangkok despite mounting international criticism of the exploitative tourism practice, media reports said on Monday.
It charges an entrance fee of 25 baht for Thai visitors and 250 baht for foreigners, the newspaper said. Sattahip district chief Narong Thirachantarangkoon brushed off accusations that he had allowed the establishment of a "human zoo" in his district. "I don't think so because the Karen are willingly living here," he said. "This is better than staying in their home region and starving." The rings worn by the Kayan women can weigh 10 kg or more, and over the years, the weight pushes down their collar bones and shoulders, making their necks appear longer and giving the women their nicknames of "long-necked" women.

Charging tourists for being able to visit villages where these women live, just for the purpose of being able to see these women makes the whole picture that of like a zoo, and is an abhorrent concept.

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