April 27, 2013

0587 & 0618 MYANMAR / THAILAND - Kayan Lahwi

Posted on 05.04.2013 and completed on 27.04.2013
The woman on the postcard is part of the ethnic subgroup Kayan Lahwi (also called Padaung). The Kayan is in its turn a subgroup of the Red Karen (Karenni) people, a Tibeto-Burman ethnic minority of Myanmar. In the late 1980s 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 was a Long Neck section, which became a tourist site. Although some countries are willing to accept a number of refugees, Thai authorities didn't let go to Kayan Lahw, because it would lose earnings from tourism.

Women of this tribe are known for wearing brass coils (in spiral) that are placed around the neck, appearing to lengthen it. Girls first start to wear rings when they are around five years old. Over the years the coil is replaced by a longer one, and more turns are added. The weight of the brass (up to 10 kg) 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. 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. Contrastingly it has been theorised that the coils originate from the desire to look more attractive by exaggerating sexual dimorphism. The coils might be meant to protect from tiger bites, perhaps literally, but probably symbolically.

The full set of neck rings is made from three separate coils, the main neck coil and a wider coil near the shoulders with a small coil wrapped around it at 90 degrees. Few women wear this full set. Brass coils are also worn around the legs. The rings rubbing against the skin can cause discomfort and abrasions over a period of time. Some of the women, especially the young ones, don’t want anymore to be human exhibits and removed their coil. Contrary to popular belief, this has no effect on women's health, only a slight discomfort that lasts 3-4 days.

About the stamps
On the first postcard
The stamp is part of the series Tourist Spots in Thailand (Seaside 1st series), issued on 2008 and containing ten stamps, all with the same face value (15 THB):
• Ko Khai
• Ko Chang
• Khao Tapu
• Hat Cha-Am
• Ao Maya
• Ko Panyi
• Hat Chao Mai
• Thale Waek - it's on this postcard
• Hat Pattaya

On the second postcard
Both stamps, depicting  Diving Beetle (20¢) and Common Redbolt (Dragonfly) (30¢), belongs to the definitive series Pond Life, about which I wrote here.

Kayan people (Burma) - Wikipedia
Background and Culture - Huay Pu Keng 
Kayan Lahwi, the “Long-Neck” People - World Adventurers
Please Set Me Free - Marie Claire 

sender 1: Anna-Mae Rodsud (direct swap)
sent from Chiang Mai (Chiang Mai / Thailand), on 18.04.2013
photo: Jatuporn Rutnin
sender 2: Lee Hock Peng (direct swap)
sent from Singapore, on 18.03.2013


  1. great postcard - interesting blog post

  2. Yes, a good blog, but do you know how much the women of this Kayan tribe are being abused?