Kayan
 

"Life cannot vanish without reaching the destiny of fate"

Burmese proverb
 

 

Kayan


The Padaung tribe is a subgroup of the larger Kayan tribe, a Tibeto-Burman ethnic minority from Burma whose women traditionally wear brass neck coils.

Due to conflict with the military regime in Burma in the late 1980s and early 1990s, many Kayan tribes fled to the Thai neighbouring border area. In the Mae Hong Son Province in Northern Thailand, three camps were set up to welcome the refugees. The villages quickly known as "Long neck camps" have now become touristic attractions. 

Several hundred Padaung live along the Thai-Burma border. Some fled to Burma to escape war but most have come to Thailand to make money displaying themselves to gawking tourists. While the Kayan women only receive a small portion of the money generated most of it goes to the tour operators.

Today the tradition of wearing bronze rings round the neck is slowly being discarded but there are still a few who continue to follow this age-old custom and the practice has become so lucrative that Padaung women are prevented by Thai authorities from taking up asylum overseas and are forced to live in these virtual human zoos.

“It is not comfortable wearing these coils even while sleeping. But with them we can live in Thailand because they want us to stay this way...Our lives are better here. We prefer to live here rather than being sent back to Myanmar...We want food, clothes and other necessities. This is the only way we can earn money."