Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Burmese refugees held in ‘human zoo’

The Kayan hill tribe women are famous for the gold rings they wear from childhood, pushing down their shoulders to present the appearance of elongated necks. Now, in northern Thailand, twenty of these women are being held in what is essentially a “human zoo,” BBC News reported Wednesday.

In a practice that has been developing for several years, foreign tourists can pay to visit and photograph traditional hill-tribe villages. In this case all of the women are refugees from Burma, and the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) says that Thai authorities are refusing to let them leave.

It is suspected that this is due to the central role the women play in the region’s tourist industry. Twenty thousand other Burmese refugees have been granted permission to move to new countries.

One of the women has removed her rings in protest.

“It’s absolutely a human zoo,” said the UNHCR’s regional spokeswoman, Kitty McKinsey. “One solution is for tourists to stop going.”

For the full article, click here.


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