There are many clans and ethnic groups in the world. These clans and ethnic groups are divisions of any country based on their way of life. In many clans and ethnic groups, they have unique things that people use to identify them.
The Kayan are a sub-group of Red Karen, Tibeto-Burman ethnic minority of Myanmar. Most of them are Kayan Lahwi, the group in which women wear brass neck coils. In the late 1980s and early 1990s due to conflict with the military regime in Myanmar, many Kayan tribes fled to the Thai border area. Among the refugee camps set up, there is a section, which became a tourist site, self-sufficient on tourist revenue and not needing financial assistance. The Kayan residents in Mae Hong Son Province in Northern Thailand refer to themselves as Kayan and object to being called Padaung, a Shan word the Kayan finds offensive.
Women of the Kayan tribes identify themselves by their forms of dress. Women of the Kayan Lahwi tribe are well known for wearing neck rings, brass coils that are placed around the neck, appearing to lengthen it. The women wearing these coils are known as "giraffe women" to tourists.
Girls first start to wear rings when they are around 5 years old. Over the years, the coil is replaced by a longer one and more turns are added. The weight of the brass pushes the collar bone down and compresses the rib cage. The neck itself is not lengthened; the appearance of a stretched neck is created by the deformation of the clavicle.
The coil, once on, is seldom removed, as the coiling and uncoiling is a lengthy procedure. It is usually only removed to be replaced by a new or longer coil. The muscles covered by the coil become weakened. Many women have removed the rings for medical examinations. Most women prefer to wear the rings once their clavicle has been lowered, as the area of the neck and collarbone often becomes bruised and discolored. Additionally, the collar feels like an integral part of the body after ten or more years of continuous wear.
Many ideas regarding why the coils are worn have been suggested, often formed by visiting anthropologists, who have hypothesized that the rings protected women from becoming slaves by making them less attractive to other tribes.
It has also been theorised that the coils originate from the desire to look more attractive by exaggerating sexual dimorphism, as women have more slender necks than men.
It has also been suggested that the coils give the women a resemblance to a dragon, an important figure in Kayan folklore.
The coils might be meant to protect from tiger bites, perhaps literally, but probably symbolically. Kayan women, when asked, acknowledge these ideas and often say that their purpose for wearing the rings is cultural identity, associated with beauty.
In Myanmar, the government began discouraging neck rings as they struggled to appear more modern to the developed world. Consequently, many women in Myanmar began breaking the tradition, though a few older women and some of the younger girls in remote villages continued to wear rings. But in Thailand, the practice has gained popularity in recent years, because it draws tourists who bring revenue to the tribe and to the local businessmen who run the villages and collect an entry fee of 500 to 600 baht per person (from 15 to 17 USD, as of 2017).
Like tens of thousands of people, the Kayan headed for the Thai border. But instead of being kept with the other refugees, the "long-necked" families were put in a separate compound a few yards from the official camp. Since then, the ethnic conflicts inside Burma have raged on, and the Kayan community in Thailand has swelled to about 500.
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