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Message-ID: <>
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?

Straits Times
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 human-rights violation.

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 an exhibition.

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 badly hit."

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 camp.

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."

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