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Women Of The Long Neck Karen Tribe Removing Rings

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Women Of The Long Neck Karen Tribe Removing Rings

Thailand's Human Zoo Releasing The Rings Of The Long Neck Tribe...

The Karen tribes of the Thai-Burmese/Myanmar border, who are know for wearing brass coils that stretch the neck, are removing their rings in hope to someday be integrated in to society.

The Karen are often refered to as the “long-neck” or “giraffe” tribes. However it is only women in a sub-group of Karen, known as the Padaung, who wear the brass rings. Several Padaung villages that serve as a tourist attraction for thousands of visitors from around the globe, have been constructed in the Mae Hong Song province of Northern Thailand.

long neck padaung tribe Women Of The Long Neck Karen Tribe Removing Rings

For the price of 250 baht (around 7 dollars), tourists can visit one of these long neck tribes. The idea of witnessing first hand what a real tribal village is like is a great lure for many travelers, but being able to see the famous long neck tribes is what really brings in the crowds. Although the opportunity to visit the Padaung tribes may seem like a perfect trip during a stay in Thailand, many tourists have labeled the villages ‘human zoo’s’.

ZEMBER, who at aged 12 had become a poster child for long-neck tourism, has now taken her rings off in protest, after provincial authorities in Mae Hong Son, refused to let her emigrate to New Zealand.

zemba graduation Women Of The Long Neck Karen Tribe Removing Rings

“When I was young, I wanted to wear the rings and keep my own tradition. In one way, I feel sad (that I’ve taken them off) but now I go to the city, no one cares, no one stares…
“The people who control us say if the people see us in the town, they won’t pay to see us (in the village).”

After being interviewed in November 2005, Zember received the news on 2006 that she would be able to join her friends in New Zealand. But as Zember’s case dragged on, authorities ruled in 2007 that Section 19, Zember’s home area, was no longer part of the resettlement plan. Even though Zember had been due to leave in 2006, the new ruling meant she had missed her chance.

zemba removing her rings Women Of The Long Neck Karen Tribe Removing Rings

It was then that Zember decided to remove her rings.

“[So] I took my rings off. I love my culture, but it is our tradition which has made me a prisoner.”

zemba and her friends Women Of The Long Neck Karen Tribe Removing Rings

The Padaung custom prescribes that girls begin to wear augmented coils that weight as mush as 11 pounds, before puberty. The number of coils on the rings are then increase gradually with age.

There are several accounts of why the Padaung practice this custom. Their own mythology tells how the coils will protect them from the bite of a tiger. Others speculate that it is done to to make the women unattractive so they are less likely to be captured by slave traders. However the most common explanation, is the opposite of this – that an extra-long neck is considered a sign of great beauty and wealth and that it will attract a better husband.

Many people believe that the coils force the chin upward while pressing down the collar bones and ribs, elongating the neck. However chiropractor or orthopedic surgeon will tell you that this would lead to paralysis or even death. In fact, the stretching of the neck is actually an illusion.

long neck tribes working Women Of The Long Neck Karen Tribe Removing Rings

The rings do not cause the vertebrae to elongate, instead the weight of the rings pushes down the collar bone, as well as the upper ribs, to such an angle that the collar bone appears to be a part of the neck.

Traditionally, it was only the Padaung girls born on a Wednesday of a full moon who were destined to wear the coils, but now other youngsters are enlisted to meet the tourist demand.

Initial discomfort is reported after the coils are set, however they seem to pose no problem in later life. Experts assumed that removing the coils would lead to suffocation and death, because the neck muscles would not be strong enough to support the head. But as Zember has proved, the rings can be removed without serious consequences.

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  • Deb

    You are wrong about Zember “proving” the rings can be removed without harmful consequences, or death.
    Zember did not wear the rings for a lifetime, her shoulders and ribs were not as greatly crushed as the ribs and shoulders of adult women who have worn the rings for decades.
    Further, the incessant bruising of the neck area has likely resulted in tumors, and cancers, in women who have worn the metal for many years.

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/845055@N20/pool/ Peter Ole Kvint

    Zember had go to New Zealand in 2008.

    Zember had that problem as many men are death in the war in Burma. And without a man and children you are without role in a mother’s society.

  • Roger

    You are wrong Deb. The rings can be removed at any time,, old or young.

    There is no supporting evidence in your claim about tumors and cancers.If that was the case, there would not be older women around. Surely if the rings where causing widespread health problems they would no longer be worn. The rings are simply not removed by the older women because they dont want too. They have worn them so long that the rings are simply part of who they are.

    • patti

      Roger, Chinese foot binding continued for centuries although women would suffer extreme pain, infection, and even death from infection. Not to mention skeletal alignment problems, and the chance of loosing one’s spouse because the stench became unbearable.

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/845055@N20/pool/ Peter Ole Kvint

    You say:
    Traditionally, it was only the Padaung girls born on a Wednesday of a full moon who were destined to wear the coils,

    That is a mix of several storys.

    A mother had very night a nightmare about a tiger who kill her daughter; Wednesday (born on a Wednesday), Note: a normal tiger do not kill any child. The tiger who kill children is a reborn spirit from a bad person.
    The magician said as a coil ornament on the Wednesday’s neck will drive away the bad spirit, and that work her mother never had that nightmare again. In a world of god spirits and bad spirits have one ornament a god spirit. Remember that when you buy a lottery ticket.

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/845055@N20/pool/ Peter Ole Kvint

    You say:
    Traditionally, it was only the Padaung girls born on a Wednesday of a full moon who were destined to wear the coils,
    That is a mix of several stories.
    Traditionally was the gold coils bore of the adult members of the female dynasty. For more than 2300 years ago a male dynasty from India kill all members of female dynasty except a single girl who run away by the royal symbol, a sacred plant in silver and gold. Nearly all by the brass neck coils are descend of that girl. In some clans, the neck coils was reserved for the noblewomen, from the first menstruation. But in the democratic clan where all are noblewomen and the use of neck coils are voluntary in all age. That clan is the last to fight against the extreme male military dictatorship.

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/845055@N20/pool/ Peter Ole Kvint
  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/845055@N20/pool/ Peter Ole Kvint

    It is correctly as Giraffe women have greater risk cancers than many other Burmese. The explanation is religion. The Karen religion tell at illnesses are evil spirits, and it is important as chase away the evil spirits by nursing and sacred plants. Of that cause they living many years longer than other Burmese and old peoples have greater risk of cancer.

  • Viktoria

    Oh my gosh! How honored I feel! What a wurnedfol gift on this early Thursday morning. I feel like I have been fp’d! Thank you millions aprons and appetites!