The long neck Paduang Women or so-called "giraffe women" are a curious attraction due to the brass coils worn around the neck, which can weigh up to 20kg and be 30cm in length giving the illusion of long necks. However, in reality no longer necks over the years the coils to distort their vertebrae and pushing his collarbone. The start Paduang this practice as young as 5 years old.
The Paduang are a subset of the Hilltribe Karen coming from the Kayah State in Myanmar. They have struggled and fought for independence in Burma for decades and around the middle of the 1990s fled persecution and arrived in Thailand. The Paduang residing in Thailand are refugees and therefore are not a citizen or rights that come with citizenship, such as the right to land ownership or access to medical health care.
So what exactly is the debate? The debate is over whether it is ethical to visit Long Neck village as a tourist. One of the main reasons for disapproving and choose not visit, is the belief that this form of tourism is nothing less than a human zoo, where tourists come to gawk and take pictures of them, a pure form of voyeurism that is degrading. It is also argued that the Paduang are exploited and receive very little revenue generated by membership fees to the village (of the people are not managed or owned by a long neck, but for a management organization). There are reports also maltreatment and children are forced to adopt the practice of long neck to attract tourists. Another reason people choose not to visit, is that people are not genuine and fully set-up for tourists.
On the other hand, there are many reasons to visit the long neck. Many believe they are safer in these villages that the alternative returning to their homeland (Myanmar) where they could be persecuted and have a poorer quality of life. Although tourists are complaining that the nearby towns push you into buying their memories, this is what we depend on them. Through the sale of souvenirs that can make a lot more than if they were to work as farmers or go home. Although management not benefiting from the price of entry to the village, they need those funds to care for them, for example, to pay medical expenses if they become ill and the villagers general maintenance of the village. Many visitors leave with a feeling that the experience was not authentic, and people invented, but if you look further and consider the reasons why you need to be organized in this way, then the story is very different. Villages have long existed with the generations who were born in villages and consider it their home.
While foreigners may think that this inhumane practice, consider the long neck is aesthetically beautiful and something you feel proud. Giving them the opportunity to demonstrate that this practice "an integral part of their culture, acts to promote and preserve their culture.
Whether you visit these people remains an individual choice. If you decide to go one way to ensure your visit benefits to villagers, is to buy souvenirs and handicrafts sold inside the village how this money goes directly to them and what they do most of life.
Created by Melissa Ah-Sing the co-founder of Thailand Hilltribe Holidays a small outfit that specialises in responsible tours of Northern Thailand
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