The Long Neck Karen and the Backpacker
By Antonio Graceffo
The Long Neck Karen Tribe are forced to work in a human zoo, but smelly, hippy backpackers think it’s great.
Most readers know I have worked in the war zone in Burma and have worked on Burma related tribal issues for years, doing stories and documenting human rights abuses. A few years ago I did a story called “Shackled by The Neck,” about the Long Neck Karin (Padoung) people who fled the war in Burma but were forced to work in human zoos in Thailand. They must sell trinkets to tourists and nearly 100% of the money they earn is collected by their Chinese-Thai owners. They are also prevented from reaching UN camps and becoming official refugees. So, rather than looking forward to possible resettlement in a third country, they are sentenced to live out their days working as freaks in a show in Thailand. These villages live on tourism, and a lot of hippy, smelly backpackers write blogs about how happy the Long Neck are with this arrangement. “I asked them and they said they were happy.” Is one of the most common and stupid comments I have heard. According to local culture if a situation is beyond your control, then you just say you are happy with it because you can’t change it. Also there are armed agents in these villages who make trouble for journalists and who would punish these ladies if they said anything insulting about their bosses or if they asked for help. Here is a link to the article in a web mag called “Cultures on the Brink.” http://cultureonthebrink.blogspot.com/2008/03/shackled-by-neck-by-antonio-graceffo.html I went back to the same village and did a short documentary film and posted it on youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ay4do-WH6k A few months ago a terribly naïve human being wrote a comment on the video saying how great the villages were and how wrong I was. We have since had one of those insane back and forth dialogues that only I can manage with my haters. She hasn’t stopped. She also doesn’t seem to have read ANYTHING in the months since we started and her entire opinion seems to be based on a single visit to the village. I will post the back and forth comments below out of sadistic pleasure but the point I want to make, apart from just telling one more new audience about the war in Burma, is that you need to inform yourself. You need to read. And today, because of the internet, every piece of information that has ever existed is available to you, free of charge and so well organized it could take minutes or even seconds to find it. I needed a bunch of statistical data for an article I was writing recently for an economics magazine. It took literally five minutes to find tons and tons of reliable data published by government and non-government organizations. Lack of reading and research is a symptom of complete laziness. And it is that type of laziness that allows people to support terrible policies. Whether it be in Burma or at home Those CAN read but DON’T, are no better than those who CAN’T. ReadBelowHere 1 hour ago everyone should continue to visit these ‘tourist villages’ because its the only income they have, even if its just a percentage. these padong people are the best off of all villages because of the tourism. they like it when tourists come because they get money. brooklynmonk1 17 minutes ago @ReadBelowHere the villages are prisons on zoos. the people are denied the basic rights of self-determination and freedom of movement. if they are in these villages they can’t become official refugees and get resettled in a third country. nearly 100% of the money they earn is taken by the Puyai Ban who own the villages. But i thought i explained all of this to you several times already. ReadBelowHere 2 weeks ago @brooklynmonk1 so you want to resort to violence when you dont agree with people? i guess you’re no different than these people’s oppressors. meh, ending conversation. you’re boring me. brooklynmonk1 2 weeks ago @ReadBelowHere actually i am very different than these people’s oppressors because i am writing and speaking out against the oppression but you are supporting it. yes, i would resort to violence against people who support oppression, and you fit that category. ReadBelowHere 2 weeks ago @brooklynmonk1 so we are in agreement, their source of income is not farming like you previously let on – its tourism. glad we could agree. in thailand now, its late. going to bed. brooklynmonk1 2 weeks ago @ReadBelowHere i didnt let on that farming was their number one source of income. i said traditionally farming is their number one source of income. you so clearly know nothing about the tribes. you are in chiang mai, try and get some education. ReadBelowHere 2 weeks ago yah so basically if you want these people to starve, then don’t visit their ‘village’. if you want them to get what little money they do get from tourism, then go buy some stuff, or donate some money to each stand. brooklynmonk1 2 weeks ago @ReadBelowHere we are not in agreement. yuo are completely uninformed and if you are in chiang mai, i would love to get in a boxing ring with you. how could you accept that as agreement? you are weak. brooklynmonk1 2 weeks ago Block User @ReadBelowHere Then they lied to you because they are farmers and gatherers in Burma. but they are forced to work in this tourism village. what do think, historically, they have always worked in tourism villages for centuries? You think they are natural Carnival folk or something? ReadBelowHere 2 weeks ago @brooklynmonk1 i visited these tribes and spoke with them. they depend on tourism. Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the book, “The Monk from Brooklyn” and the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries. See all of Antonio’s videos on his youtube channel, brooklynmonk1, send him a friend request or subscribe. http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1 Antonio is also on twitter, with the name, Brooklyn Monk. Follow his adventures and tweets. His books are available on amazon.com Contact him: Antonio@speakingadventure.com His website is http://www.speakingadventure.com sign up for his mailing list on the site. Antonio now has a paypal account. The only way he can keep filming and writing is with the help and support of people who enjoy reading his stories and watching his videos. You can donate through Antonio’s facebook profile, or you can click on this link and donate directly. https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=HQJVMYFGNYX58 If you can help, thank you so much. If you can’t help, don’t worry about it. I know things are tough out there. But, either way, please keep watching and enjoying Martial Arts Odyssey. I never wanted this to become a huge business, and I wanted everyone in the world to be able to watch for free. Antonio,graceffo,Brooklyn,monk,Thailand,thai,tribal,tribe,burma,ethnic,minority,Karen,padoung,padung,long,neck