Hilltribe Cultures

EN: The Kayen or Karen Longneck of MHS

The Kayan are a subgroup of the Red Karen people, a Tibeto-Burman ethnic minority of Burma (Myanmar). The Kayan consists of the following groups: Kayan Lahwi, Kayan Ka Khaung (Gekho), Kayan Lahta, Kayan Ka Ngan. Kayan Gebar, Kayan Kakhi and, sometimes, Kayaw.

Padaung (Yan Pa Doung) is a Shan term for the Kayan Lahwi (the group whose women wear the brass neck coils). The Kayan resident in Mae Hong Son Province in Northern Thailand refer to themselves as Kayan and object to being called Padaung. In The Hardy Padaungs (1967) Khin Maung Nyunt, one of the first authors to use the term “Kayan”, says that the Padaung prefer to be called Kayan. On the other hand, Pascal Khoo Thwe calls his people Padaung in his 2002 memoir, From the Land of Green Ghosts: A Burmese Odyssey.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s due to conflict with the military regime in Burma, many Kayan tribes fled to the Thai border area. Among the refugee camps set up there was a Long Neck section, which became a tourist site, self-sufficient on tourist revenue and not needing financial assistance.

According to U Aung Roe Kayan number about 40,000 in Shan State (around the Pekon Township area) and 20,000 in Kayah State (around Demawso and Loikaw). A 2004 estimate puts the population at approximately 130,000. About 600 Kayan reside in the three villages open to tourists in Mae Hong Son, or in the Ban Mai Nai Soi refugee camp.

About the Author

Calimero

Galletto is a surprisingly accurate yet indolent journalist that volunteers as a part time guest writer for the Pai Explorer Map & Blog.