Monday, December 15, 2008

Burmese women on display in "human zoo"

"It's absolutely a human zoo - one solution is for tourists to stop going"
Kitty McKinsey

What's sticking in my eye right now is the "Human zoo" operating in Thailand. Not sure if you've heard of it but it's a bit sickening.

Okay, so various tribal groups in Burma ran for the border to escape the Burmese military who persecutes them...that word is way too soft but I don't want to get into all of that horror right now. What I do want to get into is one particular tribe. The Kayan.

The women of the Kayan are famous for their artificially extended necks. They add rings to their necks to make them longer. Alright, interesting yes...but get over it. They are still people and don't need to be photographed by safari goers.

Anyway, for some 'mysterious' reason, this tribe was put into three small villages in Thailand near the Burmese border rather than in a large refugee camp where all of the other groups were put. No real explanation for that was ever given...but given the appearance of the Kayan, the cynical mind might make a guess.

Well, if only that were these women make a bit of money by smiling and looking pretty to the hordes of tourists. One woman, Mu Pao was quoted in a BBC report as saying "At least we're safe here and can earn some money" (Andrew Harding, BBC News reported).

So, yes better than rape and murder but still a little off...right? And what is even more than a little off is that 20 member's of this tribe have been accepted by New Zealand (God bless them) with houses already waiting. But, for the past two years (again according to BBC, not my imagination) "the Thai authorities have refused to sign the paperwork needed" (BBC). So, one woman, a 23 year old by the name of Zember has taken off her neck rings in protest. "It felt a little uncomfortable at first". She said

"I was so happy....they tell me a house is already waiting for us in New Zealand"...but she's not allowed to go to it. She brings in too much money as an exhibit. "Because of my rings I have suffered many problems...I wear them not for tourists. I wear them for tradition...Now I feel like a prisoner."

Shame on the Thai authorities for allowing this to happen. There is absolutely no reason, at least not a valid reason to keep these people there when another country is actually willing to accept them and treat them like people.

The Thai refugee camp commanders insist that these people are not refugees. "Actually they aren't refugees...according to the regulations, you have to live inside the refugee camp" said asshole Wachira Chotirosseranee, deputy asshole of the district office refugee camp.

"They absolutely are refugees," according to Kitty McKinsey of the U.N. "It comes as a great surprise that the Thai authorities are criticising them for living outside the camps, when it was the Thai authorities who wanted them to live (outside)."


Thanks to BBC reporter Andrew Harding for his excellent journalism on this.
Phote above taken from and is (I hope) exploitation free.
(sorry, link was broken so I fixed it. Also added a snazy quotation.

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