• Give a Gift
  • Customer Service
  • Promotions
  • Videos
  • Blogs
  • Win
  • Games

April 14, 2008

Please Set Me Free

Share
long necked women of thailand kayan tribe

Zember's sister removes her coil while her grandmother looks on.

Photo Credit: Jack Picone

Special Offer

Zember’s coil required almost two hours to be removed by her skilled elder sister (it takes even longer to put on). The women wear the coils, which are made by Burmese craftsmen, from childhood, starting with four or five rings and adding more each year as they grow accustomed to the bruising and discomfort caused by the weight on their collar bones. They sleep in them and pad their necks with leaves to prevent chafing and sores. Not even the Kayans know for sure how the tradition originated. One theory claims the rings were designed to deter attacks from tigers (which grab victims by the neck), while another says they were meant to lessen the women’s beauty, to ward off men from rival tribes.

One of Zember’s friends, Ma Lo, 24, who has also removed her neck rings, says the women are punished for doing anything modern, like using cell phones or computers. “The owners of the villages dock our wages,” she says. “They say it ruins our traditional image and tourists won’t pay.” In fact, the two women receive no salary at all now, and their refugee status prevents them from finding other work.

Zember, who hopes to become a nurse, admits she has only a fuzzy idea of what life abroad might be like if she escapes. “I learned on the Internet that there are more sheep than people in New Zealand,” she laughs. But she knows a bit about the West from the backpackers she sees. “The girls look so free and sexy, and their eyes shine,” she says. “I stare at them and feel even more determined to fight to get out of here.”

Click here to see more photos of the long-neck women — with and without their coils.

Tell us what you think - we'll send your letters to the Thai embassy and the UNHCR.
Or, donate to LinkHandsForHumanity.com


Share
Connect with Marie Claire:
Advertisement
horoscopes
daily giveaway
One winner will receive year's supply of makeup products from Dior and a year's supply of hair products from Tresemmé as selected by the Sponsor. A total prize package of 485!

One winner will receive year's supply of makeup products from Dior and a year's supply of hair products from Tresemmé as selected by the Sponsor. A total prize package of 485!

enter now
You Know You Want More
More From World News on Women
Is This The Most Condescending Political Ad Ever?

Women are obsessed with marriage, so picking a political candidate is kind of like saying yes to the dress.

This Act Could Put an End to Anti-Abortion Legislation

Women's right to choose is constantly at stake—but this might the solution.

post a comment

Special Offer
Link Your Marie Claire Account to Facebook
Welcome!

Marie Claire already has an account with this email address. Link your account to use Facebook to sign in to Marie Claire. To insure we protect your account, please fill in your password below.

Forgot Password?

Thanks for Joining

Your information has been saved and an account has been created for you giving you full access to everything marieclaire.com and Hearst Digital Media Network have to offer. To change your username and/or password or complete your profile, click here.

Continue
Your accounts are now linked

You now have full access to everything Marie Claire and Hearst Digital Media Network have to offer. To change your settings or profile, click here.

Continue