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.
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.
“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.
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.”
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.
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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