Photo : © WHIB / P.Virot
On a crowded strip outside the northern town Mae Hong Son sits the neighbourhood of Huay Sua Thao, filled with refugees who left Myanmar in the 1990s. The village centre
on the very edge of town looks like a “tribal strip mall” with all sorts of crafts and objects for sale to support their livelihood – a cross between crucial support and tacky exploitation.
The population of roughly 700 is made up of two Karenni subgroups, the Kayan and Kayew. In its statement, the leadership writes that they are “called many names: Padong, long necks or more crudely giraffe women, but they refer to themselves as Kayan”. The group cautions that the village “is not a specially built theme park”. These Karenni people “have been in Thailand for over 20 years due to the political situation in their country, Burma... They are refugees who can’t work legally in this country”.
“Originally, [the refugees] were farmers in Burma. They had their own houses, villages and farms and stayed this way peacefully. However, due to the military government in power [from 1988] to this day....people in the ethnic areas were tortured, suffered from violations of human rights, forced labour, forced relocations, and made porters to carry the troops’ loads when they fought against the ethnic guerrillas. In 1948 Burma gained its independence from England – the civil war still exists”.
The Thai government is trying to support IT training. Dr. Jaroon Komnuanta, of Mae Hong Son community college, says that “refugees from Myanmar are often good at English, much better than (Thai) locals” and that at the college “we try to help Myanmar people”. The “hill people visit the college and do English and computer courses. They want to continue”, he concludes.
Sur une bande de terre bondée non loin de Mae Hong Son, dans le nord de la Thaïlande, se trouve le village de Huay Sua Thao, peuplé de réfugiés qui ont quitté le Myanmar dans les années 1990. Il ressemble à un « centre commercial tribal » avec ses étals d’artisanat en tout genre qui sont le gagne-pain des villageois – une forme de revenu crucial mais aussi de vulgaire exploitation. Les 700 habitants que compte en gros le village se répartissent en deux sous-groupes de Karenni, les Kayan et les Kayew. Leur dirigeant précise qu’on leur donne plusieurs noms: Padong, longs cous ou plus crûment « femmes girafes », mais qu’eux-mêmes se disent Kayan. Il avertit que le village « n’est pas un parc à thème artificiel ». Les Karenni « sont en Thaïlande depuis plus de 20 ans à cause de la situation politique dans leur pays, la Birmanie... Ce sont des réfugiés qui ne peuvent pas travailler légalement [en Thaïlande] ». Pour info: www.huaypukeng.com.
Kutulu, a young girl wearing green earrings.
Ma He, Long Neck little girl in traditional dress.
Elderly long neck woman