Date: Sat, 22 Nov 1997 12:11:49 +0800
Reply-To: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>
Sender: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>
From: Lynn August Linse <linsela@ROBUSTDC.COM>
Subject: FWD: TH: Temple Dogs f Ugly Tourism
To: Multiple recipients of list SEASIA-L <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>
Is this a tourist attraction or a violation of human rights?
18 November 1997
MAE HONG SON (Thailand) -- The parading of long-neck Karens for
the benefit of tourists could jeopardise the Amazing Thailand
tourism campaign as the international community may see the
display as a violation of human rights, an official has warned.
Mr Poonsak Sunthornpanitkit, president of the Mae Hong Son
provincial chamber of commerce, said in the Bangkok Post at the
weekend that the use of the long-neck Karens as the star
attraction to woo tourists in for money was tantamount to
He also urged the authorities to investigate the disappearence of
over 46 long-neck Karens from the Patong tribe from Ban Nai Soy
refugee camp in Mae Hong Son last May.
These Karens were reportedly led away by a man who took them to a
tourist spot in Ban Tha Thon, in Mae Ai district, Chiangmai, for
Mr Poonsak said that the Karens inhabit a "human zoo" and said
that their rights have been abused by opportunists who use the
tribal villagers to cash in on tourism.
He said: "Provincial authorities should seriously look into the
exploitation of hilltribe people.
"They should put a stop to the abuse of human rights. If the
problem still remains unresolved, our tourist business will be
The hilltribe people in question are migrants from Myanmar living
in a refugee camp at Ban Nai Soy for the past five years.
By tradition, girls aged 10 years begin by putting one or two
brass rings round their necks, arms and below the knees. More
rings are added each year until the number reaches 20 to 25.
Tourists reportedly paid between 250 and 300 baht (S$10.75 to
S$12.90) each to view the long-neck Karens.
Mr Natteera Khachornsereelikhitkul, director of the Tourism
Authority of Thailand (TAT), Northern Office, said that the TAT
would not use the Karens in its current campaign to draw tourists
to the northern region.
A military officer called on governors of the two provinces to
play a mediating role in solving the problem.
Karens who have been captured have sent letters and cassettes
narrating their hardships at the detention site. The letters said
the tribesmen were not allowed to go anywhere and forced to work
hard in exchange for monthly wages of only 200 baht.
The contacts were made through visitors to their relatives in the
Kayah state of Myanmar and Mae Hong Son's Ban Nai Soy refugee
One man, Mr Satuk, 60, travelled from a border Myanmar village in
Kayah state to Mae Hong Son by foot to search for his missing son
and daughter-in-law who were reportedly taken from the refugee
camp to entertain tourists in Chiangmai.
He said: "I will take my children back home. Their mother is
seriously ill and wants to see them. I won't return home if I
don't meet my son and daughter-in-law.
"My neighbour told me that my son and his wife were used as star
attractions to lure tourists. They receive little money and live
in poor conditions. I want my children to return home."