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he Kayan tribe of Northern Thailand, popularly known as the “Karen long-neck people,” is well-known for wearing neck rings. Women in the country are known to wear brass neck rings fashioned by Burmese men, which appear to lengthen their necks. Kenyans believe that the longer a woman’s neck, the more lovely she is. Kayan women are familiar with the use of neck rings as early as the age of five. They accumulate more brass coils as they age. According to accounts, they add a new coil every two years.

Longneck Tradition

The Kayans originated in Myanmar. During the battle between the Myanmar army and the rebel groups in the late 1980s, they fled to Thailand’s borders. During this time, they were confined in refugee camps along Thailand’s borders, where they sought safety. There was a “long neck part,” which later became a tourist attraction.

Thailand Hill Tribes (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Kayan women drew a lot of attention in a short period of time. Their time in Thailand made them stand out since tourists became interested in how they looked. The tourists were fascinated by the neck coils and other parts of their culture.

Visitors are quick to seek photos with the exotic-looking Kayan women, both then and now. In fact, it is believed that over 40,000 people stop at the hilly border each year to catch sight of these women or take photos with them. The coils are worn by women all year, including while sleeping.

Although no Kayan tribeswoman has been able to provide a clear explanation for the adoption of this age-old ritual, various reasons for its use and continued existence have been attributed to it.

While some indigenous people claim that the brass coils protect women against abduction by neighboring tribes, others claim that they protect them from tiger assaults on the neck.

The prevailing reason nowadays is that neck coils are worn to preserve culture. Aside from protection, it appears that the neck coils are also for cosmetic purposes. The Kayan ladies are known as “the giraffe women” because of their long necks. “Padaung” is another name for their neck rings.

Concerns have been raised about the continued usage of neck coils and the considerable health hazards they offer by causing vertebrae in the spine to collapse.

Neck coils can weigh nearly 20 kilograms at times. As a result, it is tough, hefty, and uncomfortable to apply against anyone’s delicate neck. The weight of the metal coils pushes the collarbone forward and squashes the rib cage. The length of the neck does not always expand, but the distortion of the clavicle gives the impression that it does.

Kayan women are also forced to sleep with the brass coils around their necks. They use leaves to protect their necks while sleeping to prevent blisters and chafing.

Women are likewise forbidden from discussing their difficulties with foreigners. Their salary will be decreased if they do. They can also be penalized for engaging in modern activities such as utilizing computers or cell phones.

Although some individuals believe the Kayans have been permitted to keep their culture, others believe that their statelessness is being exploited. Thailand has gained prominence and attention in recent years as a result of the Kayan tradition. The country has received increased cash from tourists, which has benefited many local businessmen.

Nonetheless, some Kayan women have decided not to wear neck rings because they believe it is an annoying ritual that is out of step with current realities. These women see it as an ancient habit that should not be practiced in modern times and are working hard to put a stop to it. On the other hand, some women continue to wear brass rings as a symbol of their cultural beliefs.

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